As we cruise into the Christmas break in Europe, it seems like a good time to dish out some awards. It's been one heck of a year so far. Here's wishing everyone a happy holidays wherever you are and hoping for an even better year to come!
PLAYER OF THE MID-YEAR: LOUIS SAHA
- Dubbed by some as a bust heading into this season, Saha has not only been good...he's been better than Rooney. And Henry. And Sheva. And Kuyt. And Martins...
COACH OF THE MID-YEAR: ALEX FERGUSON
- ManU might be one of the biggest clubs in the world, but raise your hand if you had them in first place heading into the holiday break. I see no hands raised.
BEST SIGNING OF THE MID-YEAR: JONATHAN WOODGATE
- Yeah, so maybe he had two injury-riddled seasons in Madrid, but what on earth were Real's directors thinking when they off-loaded him to 'Boro? Woody had a great pre-season, Real desperately needed help at center-back, their defense is already short on size...so they ship Woody off to the Riverside? Muy no inteligente.
BUST SIGNING OF THE MID-YEAR: ANDRIY SHEVCHENKO
- You can make the argument that Sheva has been instrumental in attracting the attention of defenders and freeing up Didier Drogba to score loads of goals, but let's face it - the Blues expected way more from the Ukranian than what they've seen so far.
OVERACHIEVER OF THE MID-YEAR: READING
- After spending years in the First Division, they're now sixth in the Prem. I rest my case.
UNDERACHIEVER OF THE MID-YEAR: NEWCASTLE
- They've been racked by injuries (again), but there's way too much talent on Tyneside to be stuck in a relegation battle. Another disappointing year at St. James.
PLAYER OF THE MID-YEAR: GUTI
- A month ago I had pencilled David Villa into this slot. Two weeks ago it was Van Nistelrooy. Last week Ronaldinho. A few days ago, Sergio Ramos. Today, it's Guti. If you look at the player of the mid-year award as an MVP-type deal, then I don't know what player is more valuable to their team than Guti. No player in la Liga has suffered more fouls than him. No player on Real has the vision, composure, and . In a league that is home to some great playmakers (Ronaldinho, Aimar, Riquelme, De la Pena), I am not saying that Guti is the best. But I am saying that he is having the best season of his career, having finally been given the reins of the team, and that Real would be nowhere near the top-3 were it not for his amazing talents. Case in point: his sublime pass to Ruud Van Nistelrooy in Saturday's duel with Espanyol.
COACH OF THE MID-YEAR: JUANDE RAMOS
- As good as they were last year, they're even better this year. I've gushed on this site before about how impressed I am with the boys from Andalucia and something tells me Real & Barca are, too - both Spanish giants have already crashed to defeat at the hands of Juande's squad.
BEST SIGNING OF THE MID-YEAR: TIE - EIDUR GUDJOHNSEN & PABLO AIMAR
- Ruud has been excellent, but Eidur has come up huge in the absence of Etoo (despite a horror-show display in the game against Real) and 'El Payasito' has been superb in leading Zaragoza into the top-5 in Spain.
BUST SIGNING OF THE MID-YEAR: MAHAMADOU DIARRA
- Emerson would have walked away with this award after the season's first month, but he has improved since then. However, his counterpart in midfield continues to disappoint and was even left on the bench in Sunday's game. Yeah, they shouldn't be playing together in the first place, but that's another story.
OVERACHIEVER OF THE MID-YEAR: REAL ZARAGOZA
- The Argentine contingent of Aimar, D'Alessandro, Zapater, Ponzio, and the brothers Milito have been immense in catapulting this club into the top-5. Sure, I predicted this, but most didn't - so, they're my overachiever of the mid-year.
UNDERACHIEVER OF THE MID-YEAR: VILLAREAL
- Valencia almost captured the honor but they avoided this dubious distinction by defeating my overachiever of the mid-year this past weekend, so they're in the clear & we have to give it to another team on the East Coast. After Villareal's semifinal run in last year's Champions League, one would have expected better than a mid-table showing this year.
PLAYER OF THE MID-YEAR: JAVIER ZANETTI
- Arguably the best player on the best team in the league. Zanetti has rebounded from being left off of Jose Pekerman's World Cup squad by showing all of his versatility, experience, and leadership for the Nerazzurri. Mancini has deployed Zanetti at rightback, leftback, center-mid, left-mid, right-mid and everywhere he's played, 'El Pupi' has impressed.
COACH OF THE MID-YEAR: LUCIANO SPALLETTI
- The only team that can threaten Inter, Spalletti has helped make Roma the Barca of Italy. No titles to show for it yet, but where else have you seen a striker-less 4-3-3 side play a possession-oriented, pass-you-to-death game that scores loads of goals, is fun as heck to watch, and has one of the best #10s in the world? Grazie mille, Luciano.
BEST SIGNING OF THE MID-YEAR: HERNAN CRESPO
- Inter went nuts again this off-season with a flood of high-profile signings. Stop me if you've heard this before. But wait - this year they've actually come good. Vieira has been great. Dacourt solid. Ibrahimovic excellent. But no one's been better than Crespo, a player who's always been one of the best in Italy.
BUST SIGNING OF THE MID-YEAR: RICARDO OLIVEIRA
- Ain't it funny how Sheva is a bust at Chelsea? And Oliveira replaces him at Milan and is a bust? And even Rafael Sobis, brought to Betis to replace Oliveira, has been a disappointment, too. Moral of the story: the grass ain't always greener...
OVERACHIEVER OF THE MID-YEAR: PALERMO
- The magic may be wearing off for the boys in pink, since their season has hit some roadblocks in the last few weeks. Still, they've spent most of the season in the top-3 in Italy. Not too shabby.
UNDERACHIEVER OF THE MID-YEAR: AC MILAN
- No explanation needed here. Just a disastrous year all around for the Rossoneri.
PLAYER OF THE MID-YEAR: DIEGO
- Easiest award of the bunch. Signed from Porto in the off-season, Diego has been simply magnificent, injecting a dose of Brazilian magic and flair into the cold, hard Bundesliga. Playing as a traditional #10 ahead of Frings & Borowski but behind Klose, the latest Carioca wunderkind has been phenomenal, picking apart defenses and catapulting Bremen to the top spot in the land.
COACH OF THE MID-YEAR: THOMAS SCHAAF
- Look, I know this becoming the Werder Bremen show here, but not only is Schaaf's squad winter champions of the Bundesliga, but they also play the most entertaining, attack-oriented style of any team in the country. Stay classy, Bremen.
BEST SIGNING OF THE MID-YEAR: DIEGO
- See above. And speaking of good signings, Real should stop wasting their time with Kaka and pluck this gem to replace Guti in a year or two. He could get re-acquainted with his ole buddy Robinho from Santos and guarantee the Bernabeu faithful years of 'jogo bonito'. You listening, Pedja? Fabio? Ramon? Anyone? Bueller?
BUST SIGNING OF THE MID-YEAR: LUKAS PODOLSKI
- Have you heard anything about Prince Podo this year? Me neither.
OVERACHIEVER OF THE MID-YEAR: SCHALKE 04
- I realize that they're a big club and it's no surprise that they're a force to be reckoned with in the Bundlesliga, but tied with Bremen for top spot? Now try to tell me that you saw that coming.
UNDERACHIEVER OF THE MID-YEAR: BAYERN MUNICH & HAMBURG
- They've been better in recent weeks and my money would still be on the Bavarians to take the title, but at the moment, that's still just a prediction. Based on what we've seen so far, the evidence on hand says that Bayern, a team that routinely blows away all comers in Germany, should be doing better than barely scraping by to finish the first half in third spot in the league. Hamburg, who qualified for this year's edition of the Champions League on the strength of their top-4 finish last year, have already been bounced from the competition and currently sit next to last with only 13 points thus far. Ugh.
REST OF EUROPE:
PLAYER OF THE MID-YEAR: ALEX
- The big centerback has been the leader of a PSV back-line that's helped the Eindhoven boys vault to the top of the Eredivisie. I know, I know, that's now the second defender that's won the player of the mid-year award, but hey, they've earned it. I just work here.
COACH OF THE MID-YEAR: JESUALDO FERREIRA
- Imagine taking over a team on August 18, after having spent all summer preparing to coach a rival club, with pre-season long-gone, having had no say in the creation of the squad, and with no time to get anything done before the season kicks off. Now imagine leading that same team to the top spot in the league and a Champions League quarterfinal date with Chelsea. Now imagine winning the coach of the mid-year award on worldsoccerblogger. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Jesualdo Ferreira of Porto!
BEST SIGNING OF THE MID-YEAR: JEREMY TOULALAN, KIM KALLSTROM, SEBASTIEN SQUILLACI & ALOU DIARRA
- When you sell Mahamadou Diarra for around $40 million...and then spend way less than half that to get this array of talent...and you don't miss a beat...still 14 points up in France and cruising along in the Champions League...well, you're the best.
BUST SIGNING OF THE MID-YEAR: RUI COSTA
- A member of Portugal's Golden Generation, Rui Costa enjoyed a fantastic career in Serie A with Fiorentina and Milan. When he returned home to Benfica to joing up with the likes of Nuno Gomes, Simao, Miccoli, and Luisao, big things were expected. But he's missed a large chunk of the season due to injury and now they're out of the Champions League and 11 points behind Porto in the domestic competition. Need I go on?
OVERACHIEVER OF THE MID-YEAR: ST ETIENNE
- No, not the band. I'm talking about the club that only three years ago was mired down in the lower divisions of French footie. Today, they're third in the country, just a point out of second place. In a league with big-money clubs like Marseille and PSG and Bordeaux, that's no small feat.
UNDERACHIEVER OF THE MID-YEAR: AJAX
- Henk Ten Cate's boys have flattered to deceive, both in Europe and Holland. Booted out of the Champions League by FC freakin Copenhagen and languishing eight points off the pace in the Eredivisie, Ajax have achieved something this year - they've won this dubious distinction. Feyenoord's ugly first half warrants mentioning, too, as does PSG's 15th-place effort (or lack thereof) in France's Ligue 1.