Sam Kerr has become the first Australian to finish in the top two of the prestigious UEFA player of the year award. The Matildas superstar finished runner-up as Aitani Bonmati of Spain was announced as the winner of the women's award presented by European football's ruling body on Thursday.
Manchester City striker Erling Haaland was voted the men's player of the year and his manager Pep Guardiola won coach of the year, while Kerr finished second between Spanish Women's World Cup champions Bonmati and third-placed Olga Carmona. Despite missing out on the top gong, it marks the first time an Australian has finished in the top two of voting since the awards began in the 2012/13 season.
'DOESN'T MAKE SENSE': Matildas dudded in 'ridiculous' new farce
Thursday's acknowledgement was a reward for Kerr's exceptional campaign with Chelsea, with the Aussie star helping the Blues win the women's FA Cup and Super League 'double' in England. Kerr also had injury-plagued but impressive showing at the World Cup, where she led the Matildas to the semi-finals and their highest-ever finish (fourth).
Kerr scored 29 goals in all competitions for Chelsea this season, and netted one of the goals of the World Cup with her screamer against England in the semi. Earlier this week she also finished runner-up behind Rachel Daly in the Professional Footballers' Association player of the year awards (the best player in England).
Aitani Bonmati's powerful speech amid Spanish controversy
But there was no surprise when Bonmati was awarded the top European gong in Monaco on Thursday. The Barcelona midfielder marked her triumph with a powerful and eloquent speech following the controversy surrounding Spanish football after federation president Luis Rubiales kissed Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the victory ceremony after the World Cup final in Sydney.
"I want to share this award with all my teammates. I wouldn't be here without them," said Bonmati. "We're not talking about the title because things that should not have happened have taken place. As a society, we should not allow abuse of power in the work environment.
"I would like to tell my teammate Jenni and all women who have been through the same thing: We're with you. We're working to make this a better society."
🗳️ Votes for UEFA Women's Player of the Year 2022/23:
🥇 308 — Aitana Bonmatí
🥈 88 — Sam Kerr
🥉 72 — Olga Carmona
— Blaugranagram (@Blaugranagram) August 31, 2023
Sarina Wiegman, who won women's coach of the year after leading England to the World Cup final, also used her speech to address the scandal. Wiegman said the episode showed there was still a "long way to go" in the women's game and society.
"I would like to dedicate this award to the Spanish team," she said. "This team deserves to be celebrated and deserves to be listened to, and I'm going to give them again a big applause and I hope you will join."
Voting for the UEFA Player of the Year awards:
Aitana Bonmatí (Spain & Barcelona)
Sam Kerr (Australia & Chelsea)
Olga Carmona (Spain & Real Madrid)
Salma Paralluelo (Spain & Barcelona)
Keira Walsh (England & Barcelona)
Ewa Pajor (Poland & Wolfsburg)
Erling Haaland (Norway & Manchester City)
Lionel Messi (Argentina & PSG [now Inter Miami])
Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium & Manchester City)
İlkay Gundogan (Germany & Manchester City [now Barcelona])
Rodri (Spain & Manchester City)
Kylian Mbappe (France & Paris)
Marcelo Brozovic (Croatia & Inter [now Al Nassr])
Jesus Navas (Spain & Sevilla)
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