It’s not just the winner of the Golden Foot that will be announced on the day UEFA announce the group stage draw for the Champions League, but the winner of the Best Player in Europe Award.
Instituted in 2011, the award replaced the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year Award and is also meant to take the place of the Ballon D’Or, which was merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2010.
The award is given to a player regarded to have been the best in his previous season of football. Irrespective of nationality, the award is only given to players who ply their trade in Europe.
This season, in addition to the much-expected presence of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery has made it to the final round of elimination for the coveted prize.
Franck Ribery: what did he do last season?
Last season’s Bundesliga Player of the Year, Ribery was one of the most influential players in a Bayern Munich side that became the first ever German side to win the coveted treble.
The Bavarians were runaway winners in the German Bundesliga, triumphed in an all-German Champions League final at Wembley in a game that will be fondly remembered for years to come and held off a comeback from Stuttgart to lift the German Cup.
Ribery’s darting runs beyond defenders helped his team pull defenders away from their assigned positions, allowing his team to capitalise on the gaping holes they left in their wake.
With lightning pace and excellent dribbling skills, the France international willingness to run at defenders and involve players en route to finding the back of the net meant he was rarely out of the German team’s starting XI, with the other flank being rotated with the more individualistic Arjen Robben, the efficient Thomas Muller and the talented Xherdan Shaqiri.
Ribery scored ten goals in the Bundesliga last season – fourth highest scorer for his club – but had an average of 2.4 shots a game. But that was only a footnote to his creative stats.
Ribery made an average of 55.9 passes a game, resulting in a success rate of 87.7%. His total number of chances created and key passes he has contributed have steadily increased in the last three seasons in the Bundesliga and with 3.2 chances a game, showed his best return in terms of creativity since moving to Bayern from Marseille in 2009.
He made a total of 86 key passes in the previous edition of the league, the highest in the Bundesliga.
Although Ribery only got 45 out of 155 crosses accurate, his accuracy rate of 1.7 a game and his cross completion percentage of 29% are above the average completion rate. He also notched 14 assists last season, once again topping the Bundesliga states.
What did he win?
What didn’t he?
He played all but three stoppage time minutes of Bayern’s 2-1 triumph over rivals Dortmund in the Champions League final, providing a key pass to Mario Mandzukic’s opener.
It was also Ribery’s back-heeled pass that was poked home by Robben for Bayern’s late, late winner. He also played nearly all of the German team’s DFB Pokal triumph.
Ribery missed only seven of Bayern’s triumphant Bundesliga triumph.
At the end of the season, he was given the Bundesliga Player of the Season Award.
Why Ribery should win the award
Ribery has made it into the top three of Europe’s best alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and in the current scenario, there are not many who can lay claim to that.
Ribery has won more trophies than the other two players combined and being one of the best players in an historic treble-winning side is reason enough for him to win it.
Could he win the Best Player in Europe Award?
He most certainly could, but he might find it difficult in picking up the traditionalists’ support. That has always veered towards Messi, who won the award the first time and finished second behind Andres Iniesta last season.
However, he has not had his normally extraordinary (pardon the oxymoron) impact and Ribery could definitely win the award.