2021 was the year football returned to normal – sort of.
Stadiums across the world returned to full capacity (apart from the Etihad). Five substitutions and water breaks returned to three subs and feigning injury when under the cosh. And England returned from another major tournament empty-handed.
As 2021 draws to a close, we salute those who made it such a memorable year, with Paddy’s prestigious B*llend d’Or Awards.
Goalkeeper of the Year
The runaway winner is Haiti goalkeeper Josue Duverger who scored the greatest own goal of all time. After allowing the ball to run under his foot from a routine back-pass, the goalkeeper still had time to get back and make a clearance. However, as Duverger went to clear the danger with his right foot, his standing foot made contact first and he ended up slicing the ball into his own net. Karius would be proud.
Defender of the Year
Our defensive B*llend d’Or winner is none other than Manchester United and England star Harry Maguire. The 28-year-old has been an absolute rock in defence for club and country. A rock in the sense of being a large, hefty inanimate object. His celebration in defiance of his critics after scoring against footballing giants Albania will live long in the memory.
Midfielder of the Year
There have been some iconic double-acts down the years. Laurel and Hardy. Simon and Garfunkel. Barry and Paul Chuckle. So, it’s only right the Midfielder of the Year award is shared by the duo collectively known as McFred. Their non-tackling display during Manchester United’s 5-0 home capitulation against Liverpool will be studied by students of the game for decades to come.
Forward of the Year
You get the feeling Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could dominate this category for years like Messi and Ronaldo have done with the proper Ballon d’Or. The Gabonese striker followed the current Arsenal trend of downing tools immediately after signing a new £350,000-per-week contract. Boss Mikel Arteta stripped him of the captaincy after numerous disciplinary breaches and crimes against fashion. He’s currently training with the under-11s.
Team of the Year
The B*llend d’Or for this category goes to Bundesliga outfit Greuther Furth. The newly-promoted side currently have the lowest points tally of any team in Europe. The club ironically nicknamed the ‘cloverleaves’ have set the record for the worst start to a season in Bundesliga history. They’ve lost 14 of their last 17 games, shipping 49 goals in the process and are currently bottom of the table by 11 points. It’s only a matter of time before manager Stefan Leitl gets the call from Ed Woodward.
Manager of the Year
Marcelo Bielsa will always hold legendary status among Leeds United fans for guiding them back to the promised land of the Premier League after a 16-year hiatus. However, the Argentine’s tactics have been brutally exposed this season with the Whites loitering close to the relegation zone. Bielsa watched his side suffer their joint-heaviest league defeat of all-time at the hands of Manchester City while sat on a bucket and sipping Yorkshire tea. Things have gotten so bad that Leeds fans are calling for Big Sam and Steve Bruce to replace him.
Chairman of the Year
What a year it’s been for Daniel Levy. Sacking Jose Mourinho on the eve of a cup final. Wanting Spurs to be part of a breakaway European Super League only for the club to find themselves in the Europa Conference League and eliminated in the group stage. Refusing to sell Harry Kane to Man City for £120m only for the England striker to chip in with two league goals before Christmas. Being knocked back by just about every coach in world football before giving the job to 83rd choice Nuno Espirito Santo – only to sack him after four months. Hiring Conte, the 9th manager of his reign as chairman, his only shred of redemption in an otherwise disastrous year.
- Like Paddy Power News? Or maybe you just want a moan? Let us know what you really think in our reader survey
Transfer of the Year
Ronaldo’s return to United? Messi leaving Barca for PSG? No. Harry Kane’s failed move to Manchester City scoops the gong. It was the ‘Will he? Won’t he?’ transfer saga of the summer. Spurs chairman Daniel Levy chucked his phone in a lake and ignored all of City’s bids for the England striker. As it turns out, Levy turned down £120m for a man who has managed to score the same amount of league goals as Fred and Ben Mee this season.
Kit of the Year
There have been some shocking kits down the years. Hull City’s Tiger print eyesore in ’92. The cloaks of invisibility Manchester United wore during a 3-1 defeat to Southampton at The Dell in 1996. Any Norwich kit there’s ever been. But nothing quite compares to Man City’s 3rd kit this season. It looks like something you’d find in the to-for-a-tenner bin in Sports Direct.
Celebration of the Year
Cristiano Ronaldo’s trademark ‘SIIIUUU’ is the clear and obvious winner here. There appears to be an alarming new trend of grown men, predominantly Manchester United supporting males, mimicking the iconic goal celebration. It’s not an uncommon sight on nights out to witness inebriated men form huddles and SIIIUUU at each other for no apparent reason. Ronaldo should dedicate this B*llend d’Or to every one of them.
Referee of the Year
Mike Dean shot to stardom back in 2000 when he first appeared as a referee and has gone on to star in over 500 games since then. A pioneer of the ‘no-look-booking’, Dean is credited with bringing some panache to the art of dishing out cards willy-nilly. The Wirral-based ref has gone from strength to strength in 2021, making practically every game he’s officiated all about him.
Fans of the Year
2021 was the year England fans further cemented their status as the biggest B*llends in world football. Having reached the delayed Euro 2020 final at Wembley Stadium, this was billed as the moment football finally came home. The eyes of the world were on Wembley. Cue ticketless England fans breaching security and forcing their way into the stadium. Ticketless fans also stormed a nearby fan zone for 1,500 supporters who won tickets in an online ballot. Drunken fans threw bottles, fireworks and traffic cones at police. And of course, that immortal image of the man who shoved a lit flare up his bare arse.
*Paddy Power’s breaking news coverage is 100% fake news – except the stuff about Arsenal being sh*t, that’s all true*
- Outrage as Arsenal fan token gives just £1 off £18 Emirates burger & chips
- Zlatan: ‘No one told me Christmas is all Lynx Africa gift sets after 40′
- Club shop tat: Last-minute gift ideas for football fans everywhere
- Paddy’s guide to the biggest sporting events over Christmas and New Year
- Live football: What matches are on the telly today?
- Score your Football betting tips and previews at Paddy Power News