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.