Manchester City centre-back Ruben Dias has been named as the Footballer of the Year by the Football Writers’ Association (FWA). Dias, signed from Benfica last year, pipped team-mate Kevin De Bruyne and Tottenham talisman Harry Kane to the award. He was one of nine players from Pep Guardiola’s title-winning team to be included in the shortlist, with the City contingent accounting for over half of the votes cast.
The 24-year-old, who has marshalled a defence that has conceded just 32 goals in the Premier League this season, is the first defender to win the prize since Steve Nicol in 1989.
He has also become only the third player to win the award in his first season in England after Jurgen Klinsmann and Gianfranco Zola did so in 1995 and 1997 respectively.
In addition to being integral to a fifth Premier League title charge, Dias has helped City to an EFL Cup win – their fourth in a row – and reach their first Champions League final, which will be played against Chelsea in Porto on May 29.
Dias is the first defender to win the award since Steve Nicol back in 1989 and he also becomes only the third player to win the FWA award in their first season in England, following Jurgen Klinsmann (1995) and Gianfranco Zola (1997) ⭐️
— Manchester City (@ManCity) May 20, 2021
FWA chair Carrie Brown said: “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.
“Perhaps, in this of all seasons, Dias is the leader we all need.”
Dias has made 31 league appearances for City this season, helping Guardiola’s men keep 14 clean sheets, ranking him behind only Aston Villa’s Matt Targett (15) among Premier League defenders.
His tally of 88 clearances puts him top in terms of City defenders, while no team-mate at the back has made more headed clearances (47) than the Portugal international.
He ranks fourth among City defenders for tackles attempted (23), boasting an impressive success rate of 56.5 per cent, with a duel success rate of 59.3.
No City defender has contested more aerial duels (98), with Dias winning 61 of them. He has scored one league goal so far.
Dias will be able to play in front of his own club’s fans for the first time on Sunday, when City welcome Everton to the Etihad Stadium.