The 2022 Cylers continue their run through Europe. Next stop: Italy! Which of the Serie A’s stars will write themselves amongst the cosmos?
For the uninitiated, the Cylers, short for the 2022 Cyler Awards, are the most prestigious award ceremony in the history of ever, where the only valid opinion is mine, as should be the laws of the world anyway.
Tom Starke Award: Best Goalkeeper
The award for best goalkeeper goes to formerly Spezia, now SS Lazio’s Ivan Provedel!
Ivan Provedel was Spezia’s ultimate saviour during the second half of the season, sparing them relegation with his numerous saves and attracting the attention of European hopefuls Lazio. After joining Lazio, Provedel kicked it up another gear, becoming the best pure shot-stopper in the league for the second half of the year. A stellar year all around for the Italian. It’s a shame he didn’t get to be in Qatar for the World Cup due to Italy missing out, although Gianluigi Donnarumma is the locked-in starter for gli Azzurri.
I must also mention the runner up in this category: Mike Maignan. ‘Magic Mike’ was by far the best keeper during the 2021/22 season, but injury cut the French keeper’s year short with about a quarter still to go.
Dante Award: Best Defender
The award for best defender goes to formerly Torino, now Juventus center-back Bremer!
Bremer (linked to Bayern Munich last spring before their eventual summer transfer window acquisition of Matthijs de Ligt from Juventus) was the best centre back in Italy by some distance during the 2021/22 season, and while he experienced a slight dip in form after his move across Turin to the Bianconeri, he was still elite.
Bremer’s marauding presence across a backline is huge. He is a physical specimen both with his strength and his speed, but his style of play still has a characteristically Brazilian twist to it. He loves a bomb forward and can play the ball with his feet well for a centre back. He has been chained to the back more at Juventus than he was at Torino but he has managed to maintain a more than satisfactory level of performance despite the restrictions.
Xabi Alonso Award: Best Midfielder
The award for best midfielder goes to AS Roma’s Lorenzo Pellegrini!
This is a bit cheat-y as Pellegrini hasn’t played as a true midfielder but rather either as a 10 in José Mourinho’s 4-2-3-1 or as one of the interior attackers in a 3-4-2-1. However, Pellegrini has dropped back consistently, usually acting as a third midfielder. Pellegrini has bagged a goal and four assists this season in the league. He’s been fantastic on Thursday nights in the Europa League, too. But his real top performances came during the end of the 21/22 season where Pellegrini went into overdrive with a game-changing performance almost every week, dragging Roma into a European spot.
I would be remiss to not mention the runner up to this category: Internazionale’s Hakan Çalhanoğlu. The Turkish international has flourished playing as a hybrid 8/10 in Inter Milan’s 3-5-2. Çalhanoğlu’s eye for goal and pass from distance is world class and he has added a presence off the ball to his game as of late, assisting Marcelo Brozović in the middle and allowing his teammate Nicolò Barella to push further forward. On top of all that, Çalhanoğlu is probably the best player in the world when it comes to dead ball situations, especially direct free kicks. Another mention must go to Napoli’s André-Frank Zambo Anguissa who has been world class and my original pick for the runner-up spot before I decided I’d allow Lorenzo Pellegrini to be in this category.
Franck Ribéry Award: Best Attacker
The award for best attacker goes to... AC Milan’s Rafael Leão!
The Portuguese prodigy won the award for the Serie A’s Player of the Year in October, and for good reason as his performances during the second half of the 21/22 saw him go from challenging for the position of starter at left wing at AC Milan to becoming indispensable and one of the best players in the league. Leão’s surge is probably what won Milan the 2021/22 Serie A, and he only continued that form as one of the best players in all of Europe during the third quarter of the year. He did have a dip in form during the last two or three months, which is probably what prevented him from taking the Italian Cyler d’Or.
The Cyler d’Or: Italy’s Player of the Year
Finally, the 2022 Italian Cyler d’Or goes to... Lazio’s Sergej Milinković-Savić!
You’ve heard me sing Milinković-Savić’s praises the last few months with his multiple appearances in Europe’s Finest, and that has been him performing at the level you should accustom yourself to from the Serbian international.
Milinković-Savić has been Lazio’s ace in the hole for a while now. With Luis Alberto and (formerly Lucas Leiva, now) Danilo Cataldi at his side, the Lazio midfield trio ranks amongst the very best in Europe. Luis Alberto was previously the furthest forward, but as of late he has adopted a hybrid role somewhere between a regista and a mezzala, with Milinković-Savić taking the reins of the space between the lines. Milinković-Savić is a dogged presser and tireless in his tracking back, never letting players behind him get much time or space on the ball. Offensively, all of Lazio’s play funnels through him, but he is more of a focusing barrel than a bottleneck, as he somehow always manages to use himself as the pivot without restricting the movements of his teammates. In particular, I love the way he opens up space for Mattia Zaccagni on the left wing with his roaming into the left half-space, a combination that often sees Zaccagni run in behind the opposition right back or sometimes even make a diagonal dart across the face of the defense. And his combinations with Felipe Anderson on the right and Ciro Immobile through the middle are no less effective this season.
He ended the 2021/22 season with a ridiculous 11 goals and 11 assists in the league from an advanced position, but this season has been even better. He currently sits on three goals and seven assists in the league, which is indicative of the shift in his playstyle from season to season. He is one goal contribution short of matching the rate he had last season, but that is a meager sacrifice for what Lazio have received in return: Milinković-Savić has upped his game defensively, often dropping to collect the ball directly from the centre backs, pushing his midfield partners further forward and acting as a fulcrum for them too, effectively forming a hexagon with him and Immobile as the two extreme ends. It is a gorgeous shape to watch play, made up fabulous players from end to end. Lazio are lucky to have him and I hope he stays in Rome; I don’t think he would be allowed such freedoms in a bigger team. What a player he is.
What do you think of my picks? Is there any midfielder (other than Joshua Kimmich of course) more complete than Sergej Milinković-Savić in the world? Do I actually secretly like Lazio more than Napoli? Let us know your thoughts in the discussion below.