Manchester City aren’t used to winning individual awards.
The team may have dominated the Premier League in the last decade but there is a long list of snubs from Yaya Toure and Manuel Pellegrini to Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva that means the club are used to seeing players from elsewhere in the league venerated while they have to content themselves with polishing all the team trophies they have won instead.
In part, City are victims of their own success. The recruitment under Txiki Begiristain has focused on promising talents rather than established superstars, while Pep Guardiola will not stand for inflated egos in his squad.
That is what makes the Football Writers’ Association awards especially sweet at the end of a domestic season that has been one to savour.
First, Ruben Dias has won the vote to be named Footballer of the Year. A majority in the 400-strong membership felt that the City defender deserved the title after an outstanding debut campaign in the Premier League that has seen him almost single-handedly transform the team’s title hopes and also help them into their first-ever Champions League final.
Would you have voted for Dias? Let us know in the comments below
More than that though, when the votes are split a total of nine City footballers accounted for more than 50 per cent of the nominations – a fact that will surely please Guardiola and his notion of the collective.
For while Dias has been the standout, others have certainly played their part. Ilkay Gundogan is the club’s top scorer this season, Ederson has won a second Golden Glove, and at various points of the season Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling, John Stones, Joao Cancelo, Bernardo Silva and probably others have dragged City to victory with one or multiple star turns.
It has been a completely cohesive performance, epitomised by the no-nonsense defender at the back who has turned a leaky defence into a mean one. City have been the best team in the division by a comfortable margin – their 11-point lead over second-placed United points to that – and their players are ultimately responsible for that because their quality has earned that advantage.
Sign up to get even more from our Man City coverage
We want your views, Blues. You can become even more involved with our Man City coverage by signing up. This will unlock a whole host of things – including joining the comments and taking part in our special Q&As, where you can speak directly to our reporters about what’s happening at the Etihad Stadium this week and beyond.
Credit is due to Harry Kane, Bruno Fernandes and others for excellent individual campaigns but the story of this season has been the City players pulling together in December to produce an unstoppable set of results.
AS FWA chair Carrie Brown explained: “Ruben Dias is our Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year for his leadership on and off the pitch as much as for the infectious joy he derives from executing the art of defending to perfection.
“Dias has demanded the highest standards which have resulted in the swiftest of upturns in fortune not solely for Dias himself, but team-mates to his left, right, front and centre.
“I wonder if it is quite poignant that, in a time when so many find their backs against the wall, there is heart to be taken from the joy Dias exudes in standing firm and quelling the storm.
“Perhaps, in this of all seasons, Dias is the leader we all need.”