The 2022 Cylers return home for the final leg of their tour through Europe: back home to Germany and the Bundesliga! From the deafening stadiums of Berlin and Dortmund to the fabled lights of Munich where challengers look to give themselves lifelong memories with a win, Germany’s brand of football is so unique, possibly the best in Europe, and it shows.
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 winner of the best goalkeeper award is... Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer!
The best goalkeeper in the world this year, barring Alisson. I know that sounds weird, but Thibaut Courtois’ form during the 2022/23 season was diminished enough for me to not consider him above the other two.
Neuer is, at the age of 35, still elite. His shot-stopping has not dropped any significant amount, and the only thing that really separates him from the 2012-2014 version of himself is that his saves aren’t unbelievable and otherworldly like they were then, as well as his distribution not being as laser-like in its accuracy. He may not seem unbeatable anymore, but he is still a tough nut to crack. He has been good this season — a season that is now over for him after a skiing accident — but he was especially good during the end of the 2021/22 season, consistently bailing out a struggling defense. The greatest keeper of all time, doing what he does best. He will be sorely missed during the remainder of the 2022/23 season.
Dante Award: Best Defender
The award for best defender goes to... formerly SC Freiburg, now Borussia Dortmund’s Nico Schlotterbeck!
I know your first thought is ‘what?’, but let’s be perfectly honest. Schlotterbeck has been nothing if not satisfactory at Dortmund. We have meme’d him for his performances with the German national team and for his mistake in the game against Bayern which cost them the game, but he has been spotless otherwise. His season at Dortmund has been a success so far individually, as he has cemented himself as the least dispensable centre-back when faced with the competition of Mats Hummels and Niklas Süle — these are Bayern calibre names, although not performing to Bayern standards as of late.
Schlotterbeck’s true reason for being here however is the first half of the year which he spent at Freiburg. He may now be the stopper in a back four, but at Freiburg he was a lot more. Playing as the left-most centre-back in a back three, Schlotterbeck became infamous for his marauding runs forward. He is annoyingly fast and annoyingly well controlled with the ball at his feet, one of the best on-the-ball centre backs in the world. He is not perfect, losing the ball more than a few times but his sheer physicality, pace and tackling technique often meant any attempt at counter-play was quickly met by Schlotterbeck winning the ball back. He is basically unbeatable in a 1v1 unless he makes that rare mistake. A brilliant player, and one I’m sad couldn’t come to mind (especially since Dortmund got him for the bargain bin price of €15m) but I honestly can’t say I’m complaining about Matthijs de Ligt either.
Honourable mentions must go to Bayern’s French duo of Dayot Upamecano and Lucas Hernández, who missed out because Hernández has failed to really impress during the 22/23 season so far outside of a couple of excellent games, and Upamecano who was quite mistake prone during the first few months of the year.
Xabi Alonso Award: Best Midfielder
The award for best midfielder goes to... Bayern Munich’s Joshua Kimmich!
Kimmich is the best holding midfielder in the world, bar none. When he retires he may become the greatest defensive midfielder of all time. Kimmich was good even when Bayern struggled towards the end of the 21/22 season, deputising at right-back in the absence of Benjamin Pavard and returning to defensive midfield soon after, and not missing a step along the way. Coming into the 22/23 season, he has played a multitude of roles including right back, defensive midfielder and even as an advanced midfielder, although it seems Julian Nagelsmann seems to have returned him to being the No. 6 during the last few months of the year.
Kimmich is the best passer in the world. His through balls and balls over the top are lasered, nearly as good as those of Kevin De Bruyne and Lionel Messi, but where he puts himself ahead of them are with his more industrious passes. Whereas Messi and De Bruyne either pass backwards or look for the killer ball, Kimmich has made it his job to switch play and find players in pockets. The ‘pre-assist’ as it’s often called, is usually as important as the final ball itself, and Kimmich plays these progressive passes so often. Kimmich has made himself known as a goal threat too, both from set pieces and open play as he has had the occasional late run in him as well as a good long shot which we’ve known him to have for a while now.
Honourable mention must go to Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham who runs games for the Black and Yellow week in out week out and has added goals to his game this season, enhancing the dimensions and roles in which he can perform.
Franck Ribéry Award: Best Attacker
The award for the best attacker is... Bayern Munich’s Jamal Musiala!
The nineteen year old German international has been brilliant. He started the year off in a much deeper role, playing as a No. 8 and even as a No. 6 at times in Nagelsmann’s 3-4-2-1 due to injuries and Coronavirus ripping through the squad. His talent on the ball is unmatched by any young player in the world (I said what I said), and his foray into the deeper reaches of midfield have only strengthened his basics as he has come out the other side with much improved defensive technique and stamina. However, the strengthening of his shield has not blunted his blade, as Musiala showed when the 2-22/23 season began. Musiala has unseated the previously unsinkable Thomas Müller at the attacking midfielder position, bringing a whole new dimension to Bayern’s attack with drops into central pockets as well as late runs through the middle, a lot more activity in the centre of the pitch than Müller’s explorations of space in wider areas had (not saying one playstyle is better than the other, just that they bring different things to the table), and on top of all of this he has the best dribbling I have ever seen from a young player since a certain Argentinian wizard first took to the grassy meadows of the Camp Nou. Musiala has an unbelievable nine goals and six assists in 14 appearances in the league, showing he is not just flash but he has the productivity to match his talents on the ball.
Honourable mentions must go to Musiala’s Bayern and Germany teammates Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sané, who have missed out as Gnabry is inconsistent at times while Sané has been electric this season but was apathetic and dry during the first half of the year. Another mention to Freiburg’s Vincenzo Grifo who has cemented himself as one of the Bundesliga’s most beloved players of all time with another year of stellar performances down the left flank. May the streets never forget him.
The Cyler d’Or: Germany’s Player of the Year
The German Cyler d’Or goes to... RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku!
RB Leipzig were the best team in Germany during the second half of the 21/22 season, and Nkunku was the man driving everything. Playing as one of the interiors in Domeneco Tedesco’s 3-4-2-1, Nkunku ran games week in week out, cementing himself as the best player during the 2021/22 season — yes, over that Polish striker too. He scored a massive 13 times and assisted eight times in the league during the second half of the 21/22 season. Playing through the middle in Marco Rose’s 4-2-3-1 as well as one of an occasional two-man striker partnership in the 22/23 season, he has only added to that tally with seven goals and an assist in the league this season as well as a bout of massively impressive Champions League performances.
To top it all off, Nkunku led an inspired Leipzig performance throughout the DFB-Pokal, culminating in an inspired win during the final to bag Leipzig the first ever major trophy in their history. What a player. Shame Chelsea are going to ruin him and he’ll be known as just another brick in the wall.
What do you think of our picks? Are there any omissions you would have chosen? Let us know in the discussion below.