UEFA Champions League coach and goalkeeper of the year

Coach of the Year: The Contenders

It’s a subjective practice, choosing a coach of the year, especially if you go against the grain and don’t select the coach whose side actually won the title. It would be a disservice to Zinedine Zidane to suggest he was not even partly responsible for his side’s Champions League success – their eleventh – but when you coach a squad as talented and as full of Galacticos as Real Madrid, your ‘coaching’ ability is always going to deemed secondary to your skill in man-managing so many egos. Furthermore, Zidane was actually only in charge of Madrid for the knockout phase, a route that Los Blancos hardly navigated convincingly, with a defeat in Wolfsburg and narrow win over a struggling Manchester City culminating in a penalty shootout win in the final. But if not Zidane, of Bayern Munich’s Pep Guardiola (who led his side to another semi-final), then who?

Manchester City’s Manuel Pellegrini has a case. Despite his team’s travails in the Barclays Premier League, his City side successfully fought back from an inauspicious start to top their group, and then  saw off big money Paris Saint-Germain to reach their first semi-final, where they fell agonisingly short against Real. From the group stage, FC Zenit St Petersburg’s Andre Villas-Boas successfully guided his side to five straight victories from the opening five rounds of matches, although they were eliminated in the Round of 16 by Benfica. Similarly, Wolfsburg’s Dieter Hecking led his side to the top of Group B, knocking out Manchester United along the way, and his side took a shock 2-0 first leg lead into their quarter final with Real Madrid, only to lose 3-2 on aggregate. Another underdog story was that of KAA Gent and their coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck, who successfully navigated the group stage in their first tournament appearance, but were defeated in the last 16 by Wolfsburg.

Coach of the Year: The Winner

Yet coach of the year has to be the one and only Diego Simeone, who despite having a fraction of the resources of city counterparts Real Madrid, led his unfancied Atletico side to a second final in three attempts, ultimately falling agonisingly short once again. It will be of some considerable consolation to Los Rojiblancos supporters that the Argentine is rumoured to be staying at the Vicente Calderon for the foreseeable future.

Goalkeeper of the year

It can be considerably more objective selecting the goalkeeper of the tournament, especially when using Whoscored.com’s comprehensive statistical database to act as a comparison tool. Using the site’s statistical ranking system, and only considering those goalkeeper’s whose side reached the knockout phase, the top five tournament goalkeepers (with rating) were as follows (minimum five appearances);

Petr Cech, Arsenal – 7.35

Yuri Lodygin, Zenit St. Petersburg – 7.15

Jeroen Zoet, PSV Eindhoven – 7.09

Diego Benaglio, Wolfsburg – 7.08

Jan Oblak, Atletico Madrid – 7.08

Statistics do not tell the whole story, and the likes of Manchester City’s Joe Hart and Real’s Keylor Navas were instrumental in their team’s progress, the latter boasting the standout record of conceding only three goals in 11 matches. But it is the inclusion of the 23-year-old Oblak on this list which is most significant. Signed as the most expensive goalkeeper in La Liga history in 2014, Oblak was between the sticks as his side defeated PSV 8-7 on penalties in their Round of 16 tie, then saved Thomas Muller’s penalty in the semi-final second leg in Munich which saw Atletico reach the final on the away goals rule. Ultimately, though, Oblak could do nothing as his side were so narrowly defeated by their great rivals Real in the final after a dramatic penalty shootout. Yet the future remains bright for this 2015-16 Champions League goalkeeper of the season.

 


Steve Paget

 

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