For the third successive year, Outside of the Boot recognises the individuals who stood above & beyond the rest in their respective leagues. With Europe’s top five leagues the focus of our End of Season Awards, we pick out the best players across their respective positions, the best manager, the exceptional Talent Radar young player, and ofcourse the sole man standing above the rest.
Each individual award (like every previous season) has been decided by a combined vote of our readers, and the editorial team on this website.
MANAGER OF THE SEASON
Laurent Blanc managed to add another Ligue 1 trophy to his existing accolades, doing so in impeccable fashion. The Frenchman guided PSG to an improved Ligue 1 campaign, winning five more games, losing one less game, breaking the ninety point barrier and scoring ninety-seven goals this season with two games left to go, among many other records. The 50-year-old clinched his third Ligue 1 title as the side continue to showcase sheer domination in the league. Many might argue that Blanc is working in a relatively weaker league with an assembled squad of big name players, yet he is rarely given credit for doing an excellent job controlling the dressing room, managing the players and more importantly associating PSG with a minimal sense of weakness when it comes to them playing in Europe.
Nice’s Claude Puel who guided his side to an impressive 4th place finish, missing out on Champions League football by a single point, finished in the runners-up spot. Stephane Moulin impressed with his Angers side, having been promoted to Ligue 1 and spending most of the season in the top half of the table. A 9th place finish with this side is an impressive achievement.
KEEPER OF THE SEASON
Vincent Enyeama’s performances this season ensured that Lille were moving in the right direction, building on their 8th palce finish last year. The 33-year-old’s impact is evident when comparing goals conceded this season with the 2014/15 campaign with Lille letting in 15 fewer goals. The former Nigerian captain managed to keep eighteen clean sheets this season, one less than PSG’s Kevin Trapp. To put things in perspective, Trapp’s PSG are five league places ahead and have conceded eighteen goals the entire campaign, not to mention a world class defensive line up sitting in front of him.
Last season’s winner, Anthony Lopes finishes in second spot having impressed once again but failing to reclaim the crown he won last time out. PSG’s title winning goalkeeper, Kevin Trapp, though impressive in most parts, resorts to a third place finish. Many fail to give him the credit he deserves, even though he does have that solid back line ahead of him.
DEFENDER OF THE SEASON
Samuel Umtiti’s performances over the past multiple seasons have not got the coverage and appreciation it deserves. Amongst the few that have taken notice of the youngster’s progress is Outside of the Boot’s Talent Radar feature wherein Umtiti has been a recurring feature in the Young Players Team of the Week and Player Rankings. Having featured in twenty-nine of Lyon’s league games this season, the Cameroon-born French youth international has shown immense discipline at the back and honed his ability to read the game well. It’s easy to forget that this player is just 22-years-old, having amassed over 160 appearances, having made his debut five years back. In fact, this website had a Scout Report on him all the way back in April 2013. It’s unfortunate that he won’t be a eligible for Talent Radar, but he already is making a mark in senior football.
Newly promoted Angers who impressed in Ligue 1 this season, conceding the 4th lowest goal, had the likes of Romain Thomas to thank for a solid defensive line. He makes it in the runners up spot, ahead of Djibril Sidibe, the full-back was a standout performer in a defensively solid Lille side. The full-back continues to keep faith in those that believe modern full-backs don’t always have to be about purely the attacking aspect of the game.
MIDFIELDER OF THE SEASON
Ligue 1 was no strange place for Hatem Ben Arfa as he attempted to piece his career back after a disappointing last couple of seasons in England. Returning to France in 2015 with Nice, many wrote the then 28-year-old off as another one of ‘could have been’ players. Ben Arfa was having none of that and went on to have a massive season with a loud statement. In thirty-three league appearances, the five time Ligue 1 winner amassed seventeen goals and five assists proving to the naysayers that he still has much to give to the sport.
PSG’s new expensive asset, Angel Di Maria, brought back a decent return on the summer investment having managed eighteen assists in the campaign, a new league record. He kept out Rennes’ impressive youngster Ousmane Dembele, who has already got his big European move having impressed with the French club.
FORWARD OF THE SEASON
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s performances spearheaded PSG to another Ligue 1 title, this time with months to spare. Although the outcome of the league was predictable, Zlatan managed to outdo himself, beating his 2013/14 season tally of forty-one goals. The Swede’s total for the 2015/16 season comprised of forty-five goals and eighteen assists across all competitions. The 34-year-old faced minimal competition to be the top scorer in the league, with Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette fourteen goals behind. It is truly remarkable that Zlatan has barely showed signs of slowing down despite time creeping up on him.
It was last season’s winner of this award that finished in second place. Despite an impressive season, Alexandre Lacazette wasn’t near his form of last season and unfortunately for him, miles behind the winning striker – Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Marseille’s young man, who exploded at the start of the season, Michy Batshuayi finished in the second runners-up spot. A lack of consistency the biggest concern.
TALENT RADAR YOUNG PLAYER OF THE SEASON
Umtiti has outdone a fair amount of competition to bag his second OOTB End of Season Ligue 1 award. The 22-year-old’s consistency throughout the season made sure that he never dropped below third in our Talent Radar Young Defender Player Rankings. Currently on his last season as an eligible Talent Radar player, there have been few who have been a more familiar and regular name in our analysis of picking the best young players in today’s game. A fitting way for the Frenchman to sign off.
Impressive in their own right are Michy Bathshuayi and Ousmane Dembele, both of whom just missed out to the defensively solid Samuel Umtiti. Interestingly, this award has gone to Lyon player for the second successive season. A sign of things to come maybe?
PLAYER OF THE SEASON
PSG had multiple players who had excellent seasons but accounting for Nice’s finances, the lack of big name players and their push for European football, Hatem Ben Arfa’s role in Nice’s Ligue 1 campaign has been special. The 29-year-old had a solid comeback season after hitting rock bottom at Hull City, a journey which many thought ended a talented players’ career. From being over-weight to having the footballing world at his feet, Ben Arfa has proved that career don’t end despite a couple of poor seasons, even if you are nearly 30. An epitome of talent and an ambassador to thousands of players on how hard work breeds success.
Interestingly for a second successive season, a PSG player fails to pick up this award. Both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Angel Di Maria miss out, finishing in second and third respectively. When you have a side like PSG dominate, supporters seem to relish quality performances from players anyone but the dominating side. Either way both Lacazette last campaign and Ben Arfa in this are more than deserving of their awards.