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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 of course 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.
Massimiliano Allegri had few well-wishers when he first arrived in Turin to taken control of Juventus. Since then, one can hardly argue with his approach and performance at the club. Allegri clinched his second league title with Juventus in back to back seasons, his third overall. After enduring a less than pleasant start which heard criticism from many corners, the Italian managed to get the reigning Serie A champions going in splendid fashion and finish the season strong, over a Napoli side that were worthy contenders for majority of the campaign.
What makes it more impressive is that Allegri has actually defended his title, a very rare feat. Finishing behind him, like in the Serie A table, is Sarri. Sarri made quite a splash during his first season at Napoli, taking the team to a title challenge. De Francesco was also a hot contender for this award, as he took his side to the heady heights of sixth place.
Age barely held back club legend Gianluigi Buffon this season as he put forth solid performances game after game. The 38 year old who recently extended his contract with Juventus showed no signs of wear throughout the season, managing to keep twenty one clean sheets in the thirty five league games he featured in. Juventus’ season tally (at the time of writing) stands at just twenty goals conceded, much credit of which goes to the veteran. His consistency and experience make him an easy pick for the Euros, which is likely to be his last major tournament with the national team.
The old man has managed to stay atop the goalkeeping tree in Serie A for the third consecutive year, and is easily the most dominant force in this division. Hot on his heels though, is the man (boy?) that many feel will eventually take his spot. Donnarumma debuted this season as a 16 year old, and has quickly made a name for himself with his solid performances. AC Milan’s rivals Inter have made their way into third place, with the experienced and criminally underrated Handanovic taking the final spot on the podium.
Francesco Acerbi’s performances and dependability played a vital role in Sassuolo’s positive Serie A campaign this past year. The 28 year old featured in all but two games for the club and chipped in offensively with four goals. His discipline and composure is highlighted by just the three yellows he received in the entire season, wherein he averaged nearly three interceptions and five clearances per game. His partnership with Paolo Cannavaro and understanding with midfielder Francesco Magnanelli provide a central defensive block which Sassuolo can look to depend upon next season.
Acerbi is following in some big footsteps, those of Benatia and Chiellini. This is quite an achievement, as both Chiellini and Benatia won the award while chasing the title. One who won the title this season, and finished high up this list is Bonucci. He’s been described as one of the best by many experts, and this bears the testimony out. Manolas finished in third place, and it is a well deserved spot on the podium. The man made almost 3 interceptions a game on average, and was the bedrock in what was generally a turbulent season for Roma.
Paul Pogba has, as expected, seen further individual progress and maturity this past season. The 23 year old pulled his weight well for the Turin club, scoring eight goals and providing thirteen assists in the thirty-four appearances he made in the league. With Vidal leaving the club in the previous summer, the Frenchman had to shoulder more responsibilities in the middle of the park. Pogba managed to do an excellent job of controlling the tempo of Juventus’ play and creating key chances that proved crucial especially during Juventus’ recovery phase after having a relatively bumpy start to the season.
Pogba took top spot, but right behind him were Hamsik and Insigne. Both these players have long been recognised as top talents, but really stepped up took responsibility this past season. Napoli finished second, but will take back a lot of positives thanks to the maturing of these players. Pogba too, has made a similar jump. After being one of the top rated midfielders, he’s finally translated into season defining performances to see him dethrone Anderson from last season.
One of the stand out players in the Serie A season was Gonzalo Higuain, who helped spearhead Napoli’s worthy title charge for much of the year. For a player who name branded has done and dusted and looked to place his graphical marker in a position of decline, the Argentine managed to put plenty of people in their places after scoring thirty-goals goals and two assists in thirty-four league games. There have been just a handful of games (nine to be exact) where Higuain failed to have his name on the scoresheet in some form. Serie A’s top scorer has almost double the goal tally as his closest competitor, Paulo Dybala which puts things into perspective.
Indeed, it is Dybala who has finished second. Like Juventus, Dybala too, had a rough start to the season, but grew into his role on the way to becoming a dominant force. Last season’s top marksman, Icardi takes third place this time around after a quieter season.
Paulo Dybala is proving to be a good investment Juventus made when it made the decision to go for youth a few transfer windows ago. The 22 year old striker managed to score seventeen goals and nine assists in the league, making him second in Serie A goal scoring charts. The Argentine added four more goals in other competitions, taking his tally to 21, a personal best in Juventus colors. There have been many players OOTB’s Talent Radar feature has analysed and spoke highly of their potential; while plenty have gone on to mature and become great players, Dybala stands above most of them in a steady path to future greatness.
Right behind him are Donnarumma and Digne. Both are players that have featured regularly on our Team of the Week, as they have put in consistent performances, often belying their age. Dybala follows a rich tradition in lifting this award as well, with the likes of Pogba having won it in the past.
While plenty of contenders were available to pick from, Gonzalo Higuain’s stand out season was enough to make this an easy choice. 35 goals and three assists across all competitions proved to many that he still has plenty of fuel in his tank and is more than willing to lead Napoli in another attempt at the Serie A title.
Hiugain is the third srtiker to win this crown, after Tevez and Immobile, and all three have been players who have made hefty contributions to a very good finish. Just behind the one man army that is Gonzalo Higuain is Buffon. The veteran didn’t concede at home this season, and the aura of invincibility that he wears will only strengthen now. Dybala finishes in third after an impressive debut campaign, as he led the Juventus charge for the title.