As I'm from the UK, most of these are Premier League and Champions league centred.
Team of the Year:
Barcelona. Simply the best club team in world football at present and it could easily be argued that they are the best team of all-time. Their recent demolition of Real Madrid was about as good as a team can play.
Player of the Year:
There was only one candidate for me,Xavi. Xavi is the heartbeat of Barcelona and the Spainish national team, a master of his position and the best passer of the ball in football (he completed 114 of 117 passes against Real). Xavi is also exceptional off the ball, always finding space for himself.
Some guy called Messi had a pretty good year too!
Young Player of the Year:
Mostly for his World Cup performances, but Thomas Muller was a bit of an unknown quantity coming into 2010, and took his chance in the Bayern Munich team, earning a call-up to the Germany World Cup squad, where he took the tournament by storm.
Manager of the Year:
It would be easy to say Mourinho, Guardiola or even Del Bosque but I’m going to give it to Peruvian side Leon de Huanaco’s manager Franco Navarro for an extraordinary act of sportsmanship in a recent title playoff.
If you’ve not heard the story, Leon was playing Universidad San Martin de Porres in a two-legged playoff to decide the title winner. In the first leg there was a mass brawl and as a result, two players from each team were sent off. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. One of the Leon players dismissed was their star player, Gustavo Rodas.
Then, surprisingly, Rodas’ ban was overturned, seemingly for no good reason (he was seen swinging punches so his red card was deserved). This was a huge boost to Leon as it meant their star man would be available to play.
That’s when Navarro made his extraordinary decision. He knew that Rodas’ red card was a deserved one and he should have been suspended for the second leg. Therefore he decided not to play him, or include him in his squad, because he felt it was the right thing to do morally.
Leon lost the game, and the title, but Navarro’s decision was the real talking point. Victorious coach Anibal Ruiz said after the game “ I want to stress something, which is more important than the result. I have to highlight the gesture of Franco Navarro, which elevates Peruvian football and gives nobility to our profession."
Unhappy Manager of the Year:
Romanian side Cluj’s manager Sorin Cartu for this piece of dugout mania. I bet Basel were thrilled with him demolishing their dugout!
[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8miF6hspq-o"]YouTube - Football manager goes beserk[/ame]
Most Improved Player:
Gareth Bale has gone from being an afterthought, and a bit of a joke at Spurs (as it took so long for him to be on a winning side), to an integral part of their team and one of the reasons that Spurs have become such a potent attacking team. Bale has been moved from full-back into the more attacking role he plays for Wales and it has paid dividends. He has blistering pace and has added crossing and goals to his game. He should continue to improve too.
Biggest disappointment of the year:
As a Liverpool fan, it has to be my beloved Reds. Liverpool were dismal last season and frankly, have got worse since.
They did make a step in the right direction by removing the man who, in my opinion, is responsible for Liverpool’s demise in Rafa Benitez; the team is still suffering from his disastrous transfer policy, with the squad he left full of players who are just not good enough or completely demoralised, but are on such big contracts they can’t be moved on.
I consider myself to be a sensible rational man. As such, I am horrified by what has happened to seemingly the majority of the supporters, who have gone from being supportive and taking a long-term view of things, to sensationalist and only thinking short-term. Most fans still believe that we should be a title-challenging team right now, rather than the transitional team that we actually are. Rather than get behind the team and do something constructive to help, they’d rather point fingers at all the wrong people.
The atmosphere on matchday has become increasingly hostile, they way Roy Hodgson and some of his signings have been treated is disgraceful and embarrassing and started before they’d even played for the team.
As a sane supporter, it’s been an appalling year, on and off the pitch.
Player to watch in 2011
Dale Jennings: You’re probably wondering, who? Jennings (a former Liverpool trainee) is a 17-year-old left-winger currently (though I suspect not for much longer) playing for Tranmere Rovers in League One. He is a pretty similar player to Gareth Bale. He’s only small, but possesses lightning pace and has the skills to trouble any defender. I’ve seen him play a few times this season and was there when he single-handedly destroyed an experienced MK Dons team. It seems a matter of when, rather than if, Jennings moves on, as his talent is too great to be playing at that level and Tranmere need the transfer fee. Hopefully he makes the right move and ends up playing first-team football, rather than moving to a big club only to end up languishing in the reserves.
Here’s a nice goal from him against Plymouth recently.
[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axnY3auosDU"]YouTube - Tranmere - Plymouth.mp4[/ame]
Goal of the Year:
Glentoran’s Matthew Burrows for this amazing backheeled goal against Portadown. There were probably better goals scored in 2010, but this goal managed to make FIFA look at such a small league as the one in Northern Ireland for their best goals list
Favourite football moment of the year:
This came when after watching the Barca-Real game, I decided to watch the highlights on Welsh football show Sgorio (mostly to confirm that I hadn’t been dreaming for 90 minutes). After one of the best games played for years ended, the presenters, John Hartson and Malcolm Allen, with absolutely no sense of irony at all, segued into a preview of Newtown v Llanelli!
Football Pundit of the Year:
It’s so tempting to say Emmanuel Adebayor, just because he was so difficult to understand during the World Cup, or Alan Hansen for blaming a poor Clarke Carlisle performance for Burnley on his appearance on UK quiz show Countdown earlier that week. The show is recorded months in advance.
The winner has to be the BBC’s Alan Shearer, in my opinion, the least insightful analyst working in football. He never gives any opinion or any piece of analysis that isn’t blindingly obvious. He gets a mention though, for this beautiful demonstration of his analytical mind after Newcastle signed Hatem Ben Arfa on loan. Shearer said, “He’s a young lad who’s come in on loan, no-one really knows a good deal about him”. That’s the French International and Marseille title winner Hatem Ben Arfa. Good Research Alan!