Robert Lewandowski and Kylian Mbappe at the Dubai Globe Soccer Awards
Robert Lewandowski and Kylian Mbappe at the Dubai Globe Soccer Awards Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

The cream of the footballing world descended on Dubai on Monday night to mark the 12th Dubai Globe Soccer Awards.

It was a night of celebration, to remember a year that saw football get back on its feet following a Covid-ravaged 2020, with Copa America, Euro 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics all taking place alongside global domestic leagues and elite competitions such as the Uefa Champions League.

While many awards were handed out, all eyes were on who would take away the top two awards — Men’s Player of the Year and Fans’ Player of the Year. The likes of Robert Lewandowski, Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema and Mo Salah were up against serial winners Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi at the Armani Hotel in the Burj Khalifa in Downtown Dubai.

And it was France and Paris St-Germain star Mbappe who scooped the Men’s Player of the Year Award. Picking up the trophy, the Frenchman said: “This is a big pleasure to be here in Dubai. This is an honour to see such big names here. This is a great achievement for me. I want to thank my club PSG who have always been there for me and to my national team. I want to rewrite history of football and to do that you have to be hungry every day. Now I am one of the best I need to keep aiming higher every day and every year.”

The Dubai Globe Soccer Awards
The winners at the 2021 Dubai Globe Soccer Awards

Poland superstar Lewandowski was delighted to claim the Fans’ Player of the Year Award. “I want to thank everyone who voted for me and those that support me every week,” he said. “We missed all the fans in the stadiums last year and that is why we work so hard now to say thank you to you all.”

Other winners on the night included Barcelona’s Alexia Putellas for Best Female Player, Italy boss Roberto Mancini, who won Coach of the Year, helping the Azzurri win the Euro 2020 title in England. Italy also won National Team of the year.

Juventus’ veteran Italian stopper Leonardo Bonucci claimed Defender of the Year, while Cristiano Ronaldo was lauded with a special ⁣Top Goal Scorer of All Time Award.

The Career Award was presented to Brazil, AC Milan and Barcelona star Ronaldinho. “Thank you so much for this award and happy new year to everyone,” the ever-smiling Samba star said in Dubai.

Lewandowski inevitably picked up the inaugural Diego Maradona Goalscorer of the Year Award after breaking Gerd Muller’s long-standing record goals in a Bundesliga season mark.

Earlier in the evening, Mbappe and Lewandowski took time out to chat on stage about their achievements and future plans.

France star Mbappe is still only 23 years old and yet has four Ligue 1 titles in France — one with Monaco and three with PSG — and also won the 2018 World Cup with France in Russia.

“I just want to win and win again,” he explained. “If you sleep someone will take your place and so I just want to always give everything to stay at the top.”

Mbappe now plays alongside all-time great Messi at PSG, and the youngster admits he is still learning from the master. “He is amazing,” Mbappe said. “To work alongside him is just brilliant. I have grown up watching him, but even now, he surprises you on the training field with a little move. The skill and talent is always there to see. It is an honour.”

Mbappe admitted that you have to work hard and give up some things if you are to make it to the top in football. “It is hard to leave the family,” he said. “I left home at 12. You have to leave everything if you want to achieve everything. But I never saw it as a real sacrifice as I am always happy to go to training and always have. I do not go to do a job and just take the money. I have the passion to do it every day, watch the game, learn the game and become the best.

“We have won the World Cup and to win it was amazing — but that is in the past. We have another one coming up in Qatar. We have a great team but we are humble and we want nothing more than to win it again.

“Sometimes, like at Euro 2020 (France went out to Switzerland in the round of 16), you can think you are the best and football says: ‘You are a liar,’ and gives you a reality check. Sometimes you need that.”

Lewandowski, now 33, has no plans on slowing down just yet, with many wondering if he is keen on a rumoured move to Manchester City in England from Bayern in Germany before retiring. “I can play on for a few years yet but I have not thought about the next step,” he said in Dubai. “There are so many rumours in the newspapers — I do not read them — but I will wait until the next break and see what is right for me."

Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Sports Council, honoured the winners, while Mattar Al Tayer, Vice Chairman of Dubai Sports Council, took part in the awards ceremony. Saeed Hareb, Secretary General of Dubai Sports Council and Aref Al Awani, Secretary General of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, were also present.

Awards winners

Top Goal Scorer of All Time: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
Maradona Award: Robert Lewandowski (Poland and Bayern Munich)
Fans’ Player of the Year : Robert Lewandowski (Poland and Bayern Munich)
Coach of the Year: Roberto Mancini (Italy)
Male Player of the Year : France Kylian Mbappe (France and PSG)
Female Player of the Year: Alexia Putellas (Spain and Barcelona)
Player Career Award: Ronaldinho
Club of the Year: Chelsea
National Team of the Year: Italy
Agent of the Year: Federico Pastorello