Manchester City centre-back Ruben Dias has been named Football Writers’ Association (FWA) Footballer of the Year for 2020/21.
Dias, 24, has marked his maiden campaign at the Etihad by scooping the award ahead of title-winning teammates Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan, as well as current Golden Boot front-runners Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah.
Signed from Benfica for around £65m in September, the Portuguese centre-half has been a pillar of consistency and the very heartbeat of Pep Guardiola’s defence as the club reclaimed the Premier League title off Liverpool, sealed a fourth consecutive League Cup, and reached the Champions League final.
OFFICIAL: Ruben Dias has been named 2020/21 FWA Footballer of the Year.
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His uncompromising rearguard exploits have culminated in City keeping a Premier League-high 18 clean sheets this season, while he has conceded just 21 goals in the 31 appearances he has made in the top flight, as well as sweeping the board in several defensive metrics for the club.
Dias ranks first at City for clearances (88), headed clearances (47) and blocks (22), while he has also completed the second-most passes in the Premier League of any player (2,438), behind only Rodri (2,498), with an eye-watering 93.16% passing accuracy, underpinning his qualities both on and off the ball.
Having cantered to the title, City naturally dominated the FWA voting, with nine of Guardiola’s men collecting a vote, but it was Dias who ultimately sealed the accolade and has become the first defender to win the award since Steve Nicol back in 1989.
◉ The first defender since Steve Nicol in 1989
◉ The second Portuguese winner after Cristiano Ronaldo
◉ The third winner in their first season in England
◉ The youngest winner since Gareth Bale
Rúben Dias: 2020/21 FWA Footballer of the Year. pic.twitter.com/mTsB50O4fb
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Giving his thoughts on the scale of achievement, Dias commented: “It’s a huge privilege, I’m very, very happy. I could not have done it without the success of the team, without everyone in the team deserving this award. Only by that, as a defender, am I able to be here to receive this prize.
“Essentially, when I came I wanted to meet everyone as fast as possible, understand how the team plays. I knew the manager and the players, I knew a bit about the philosophy of the club because I am fan of football and I know City from the last few years.
“I had an idea of what I was coming to and I wanted to integrate myself as fast as possible.”
Dias has also become only the third player to win the FWA crown in their first season in England, following on from Jurgen Klinsmann in 1995 and Gianfranco Zola in 1997.
“It means something because normally the ones who finish off the plays get the spotlight, but me receiving this award is a major example of our team,” he added.
“We work and build our game, it reflects the togetherness we have on the pitch. The spirit that runs through this team with these players, how we play like a family.”
Jose Fonte: He’s already one of the best
Given his meteoric rise to prominence, the compliments have naturally been ten a penny for Dias, but Jose Fonte’s endorsement of his compatriot is certainly not to be sniffed at, with the 37-year-old having played alongside some of the world’s best, including Virgil van Dijk, Ricardo Carvalho and Pepe, among others.
His partnership with Sven Botman this season has also blossomed to the point where Lille are on the cusp of breaking PSG’s Ligue 1 monopoly and sealing the title, so the Euro 2016-winner certainly knows a thing or two about a centre-back when he sees one.
Fonte told Squawka: “If there’s a guy who keeps his concentration the whole game – for example, you see Rúben Dias he’s one of the guys that can keep his concentration levels at the max all the time -it’s really impressive and you can see the difference he’s had at Manchester City.
“[Dias] he very rarely makes a mistake or a bad decision. He’s already one of the best. It’s not easy to go to Manchester City and impose yourself like he did so credit to him.
“He makes everyone else better too, John Stones improved, by playing alongside Joao Cancelo he improved as well. He’s made everyone better and that’s really good.”