The commanding Portuguese centre-half has made an eye-catching impact since linking up with the Premier League champions
Manchester City centre-half Ruben Dias has been named the FWA Footballer of the Year for 2021, becoming the first defender to land that prize since former Liverpool star Steve Nicol in 1989.
The commanding Portugal international has been a revelation for the Blues since completing a £62 million ($87m) move to the Etihad Stadium in September 2020.
He has, across 48 appearances in all competitions, helped Pep Guardiola’s side to the Premier League title, another Carabao Cup triumph and the Champions League final.
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What has been said?
Dias, who is only the third man after Gianfranco Zola and Jurgen Klinsmann to take the FWA award during a first season in English football, said upon collecting his trophy: “It’s a huge privilege. I’m very, very happy [but] I could not have done it without the success of the team.
“Everyone in the team deserves this award. Only by that was I – as a defender – able to be here to receive this prize.
“It means something special because normally, the ones who finish the plays are the ones getting the spotlight but me receiving this prize is a major example of our team and the way we work – the way we build our game.
“It reflects all the togetherness we have on the pitch, the spirit in the team and how we perform.
“With these players, for me to be receiving this award, it shows how we play like a family.
“[I’d like to thank] my team-mates, all the staff – Pep included obviously – the Club [and the many names responsible for bringing me here] but ultimately, all of my colleagues: the staff, the physios, the kitmen, the guys in the kitchen that bring a smile every day to the training ground and make us feel good and ready to be the best we can be.
“All of those details make a difference at the end.
“The most important thing is to have players who think like you and have the same mentality, knowing how important the team is and knowing: ‘If you fail, I will be there for you.’
“You see it a lot in our team. if someone makes a mistake, another will be there to save you, to have your back. That mentality is definitely one of the things that makes it work so well.
“If our Premier League victory and this award means something to me, I want to give a big part of that something to them. I would like to dedicate it to them and my family as well, who are always with me.”
Why did Dias get the nod?
Dias comfortably topped the Football Writers’ Association poll, with competition from Tottenham striker Harry Kane and club colleague Kevin De Bruyne fended off en route to taking top spot.
FWA chair Carrie Brown said on the organisation’s official website: “Ruben Dias turned heads soon after his arrival in Manchester, a 23-year-old belying his age with fortitude, steel, a relentless drive for perfection and an almost superhuman ability to read and anticipate phases of play.
“This, while commendable, would not alone qualify a player to win the FWA Footballer of the Year award. One of our founding members, Charles Buchan, prescribed the award to recognise and celebrate a player who ‘by precept and example’ is considered to be the footballer of the year.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
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