Manchester City defender Ruben Dias has been voted the Football Writers’ Association’s Footballer of the Year, pipping Harry Kane to the award.
The Portugal international beat Tottenham forward Harry Kane by 19 votes, with his City team-mate Kevin De Bruyne third in the voting. Dias has enjoyed an outstanding first campaign at the Etihad Stadium since a club record £64.3million transfer from Benfica last September.
He has helped Pep Guardiola’s squad win the Carabao Cup once more, regain their Premier League title and also reach the Champions League final – where they will face Chelsea in Porto on May 29.
A total of nine City players received individual votes from the FWA membership, which accounted for more than 50 per cent of the overall ballot.
After accepting the award, Dias paid tribute to all his colleagues at the club.
“It is a huge privilege. Obviously I could not have done it without the success of the team,” Dias said in an interview with the FWA.
“I think me receiving this prize is the major example of how our team works, the way we build our game.
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“It reflects all the togetherness we have on the pitch, how we perform and the spirit that is in the team and with these players.
“Thank you to all my colleagues, the (Man City) staff, the physios, the kit men, the guys in the kitchen, that all bring a smile every day to the training ground to make us feel good, to make us feel ready, to make us feel the best way they can.
“All those details make a difference at the end.”
Dias turns to next City challenge
Despite City’s outstanding campaign, Dias is already focusing on the next challenge.
“I heard someone from the club say: ‘we live in the middle of the storm’. Sometimes we don’t even have time to celebrate, to think too much about things, we just move on,” he said.
“We must not shut it off, we just let it go, because at the end of it all, it is beautiful what is happening.
“But next year it will be a new challenge, a new season – and as a footballer you just need to be hungry every time.”
Dias is only the third player to win the FWA award in his first season in English football.
The last defender to collect the trophy, which has been presented since 1948, was Liverpool’s Steve Nicol 32 years ago.
FWA chair Carrie Brown said: “Ruben Dias turned heads soon after his arrival in Manchester, belying his age with fortitude, steel, a relentless drive for perfection and an almost superhuman ability to read and anticipate phases of play.
“Pep Guardiola improves players, shapes them – but at no point has a new signing arrived into one of Pep’s already trophy-laden teams and exerted such influence.
“Ruben Dias is our Football Writers’ Association’s 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.”