We live in a football world where attackers or goalscorers claim most of the individual awards in football. So, it is therefore important to find out if attackers are more favored for individual awards in football or not.
The Ballon d’Or. The Golden Ball Award. The FIFA Best. The UEFA Footballer of the Year. Football may be a team sport, but it oozes with the aromatic scent of individual crowns, perhaps even more so than most sports.
From the most glamorous of honors like the coveted Ballon d’Or, down to even a league player of the month, it is every football player’s blissful dream, that besides team success with the most prestigious of trophies like the World Cup and the Champions League, they are one day recipients also, of individual glory.
But perhaps within the very scope of these individual royalties, there exists an unfair reality.
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Defenders Are Less Considered For Individual Awards in Football
The facts, as we say, speak for themselves. Only one goalkeeper in history has won the Ballon d’Or, and that is the legendary Lev Yashin. Only three defenders; Franz Beckenbauer, Matthias Sammer, and Fabio Cannavaro, have ever gotten their hands on it.
Of all the players who have received the mercurial award, a staggering majority have been forwards and midfielders. Not midfielders who specialize in the defensive side of the game either, but mostly midfielders who contribute at the top end of the pitch.
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While of course there are specialized awards like the golden glove for the best goalkeepers, and the defensive spots in the World XI are treasured by those who receive them, it is unfortunate that these players are rarely up for the big individual awards, given that they are as important, if not more important sometimes, to the cause of a team.
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In the words of Sir Alex Ferguson, one of the great coaches in football, if not the greatest coach of all time,
‘Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles.’– Sir Alex Ferguson
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The Real Impacts of Defenders
One only has to look at (as recently) the last three seasons in England to see how massive an impact one single great defender, talk less of a complete defence, can have on a team.
Harry Maguire’s arrival at Manchester United lifted them from floundering and being lost among the big boys again.
Ruben Dias’ arrival at Manchester City led them to the Champions League final and reclaiming their Premier League crown.
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Virgil van Dijk’s arrival at Liverpool was what made City lose their crown in the first place. In fact, it is safe to say that Van Dijk transformed Liverpool since his arrival.
Van Dijk in particular was simply outstanding in 2019, leading to Ballon d’Or shouts. He ended up finishing second to Lionel Messi, in what some billed an injustice, considering van Dijk’s unarguable impact in Liverpool’s Champions League success and 97-point league run, a points tally that in any other season would have been good enough to secure the title, bar Pep Guardiola’s 98-point Man City.
But it doesn’t just start there. It starts from even the man of the match awards when a defender or defensive midfielder can have a supreme game and then be denied by a striker who scored the game-winning goal.
Or perhaps more fairly, it begins when our reactions are muted to the dirty work of a slide tackle, or an aerial duel, compared to our colossal decibels when the attackers score even a tap in.
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Final Thought: The Need For A Change
Are attackers more favored for individual awards in football? Almost certainly. Attacking goalscorers get more recognition in football than defenders.
But defenders should be very proud of the part they play in football. And perhaps for that, no award is appropriate enough.
In most cases, individual awards are won by voting. Hence we have the power to decide who wins a particular award.
Therefore, the change starts with me and you about how we view individual performance in football. It is way easier for goalscorers to win your heart after a football match than defenders would.
But in truth, defenders should be given as much recognition as attackers who score goals. It is only then that we could have fair winners of individual accolades in football. If not, goalscorers would continue to dominate individual awards in football as long as the game lives.