By its very nature, football remains one of the ultimate team sports – eleven players straining every sinew for the badge on the shirt and the huge crowds who have paid good money to see them sweat for the cause.
Nowhere is that more in evidence than over the course of a European season, which develops a distinct narrative of its own from the qualifying rounds in the height of summer, through to the freezing nights of mid-winter and the season denouement in the spring.
Even now, some 67 years after the first European Competitions were launched, these continental clashes still stir the blood. And create heroes.
Which is why, at Thomas Lyte, we take enormous pride in continuing our long-standing relationship with European football governing body, UEFA. And why the award of this season’s Europa League and Europa Conference Player of the Year carried particular resonance.
It’s always a special moment when any of our awards are handed to deserving recipients from across the sporting world.
But it’s extra special when they’re done so for the first time.
In a ceremony following the draw for this year’s Champions League group stages in Istanbul – the city’s Ataturk Stadium will host this year’s final after two postponements as hosts as a result of the pandemic – the Europa League and Conference League Player of the Year awards were gifted for the first time, after being lovingly hand-crafted in our London workshop.
The worthy recipients were chosen by UEFA’s Technical Observer Panel, who had followed every match from the very earliest qualifying rounds to the competition’s two finals in Seville and Tirana.
It’s fitting that in a season that saw the introduction of a new European competition for the first time in a generation, that the awards went to players from two of the continent’s most well-known and respected teams.
Eintracht Frankfurt are one of the fabled names of European football. Synonymous with the European Cup final of 1960, when 127,000 fans poured into Hampden Park to watch it widely regarded as one of the greatest football matches in history, their final against Rangers in last season’s Europa League was never going to live up to that 7-3 classic 62 years before. Regardless, the match at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium was a pulsating affair that will still live long in the memory.
Ultimately, Filip Kostic – the Europa League Player of the Year – proved the difference, with the Serbian providing the cross for Rafael Borre’s equaliser in the final before finishing his penalty in typically cool style in the shoot-out. In all, he contributed six assists and three goals as the German side won their first European title since 1979/80, when they lifted the UEFA following a two-leg win over rivals Borussia Monchengladbach.
In the Europa Conference League, meanwhile, Jose Mourinho continued to prove himself as the man with the Midas touch, helping Roma to a first major European crown after becoming the only manager in history to reach a UEFA Final with four different clubs. Little wonder a mural popped up almost immediately in the Testaccio quarter of Rome shortly after his side arrived back from the Albanian capital. On it, Mourinho, wearing a smile and a Ciallorossi scarf, was pictured riding a custom-made Vespa.
It surely won’t be long before a similar painting of Lorenzo Pellegrini appears too. Roma’s inspirational captain was named the Europa Conference League Player of the Year, becoming the first man to list Thomas Lyte’s distinctively designed award, after a series of match-defining performances for the Italian giants.
It was the start of a brand-new era for European club football. And Thomas Lyte were delighted to play our part after a redesign of all UEFA awards took place ahead of the inaugural season of the UEFA Conference League.
In addition, Thomas Lyte were also commissioned to manufacture the UEFA Europa League Young Player of the Season Award. With eleven UEFA Europa League Team of the Season Awards. Our master craftspeople also created all UEFA Europa Conference League Awards for similar categories.
As any team involved in European competition will tell you, being involved at the outset of something is always hugely exciting. And it’s no different for us.
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