Tuchel ‘uncomfortable’ as Chelsea claim FIFA awards
Chelsea's Thomas Tuchel cut a modest figure in a live FIFA interview as he earned the spotlight with Edouard Mendy, Jorginho, N'Golo Kante and Pep Guardiola just days after being beaten by the Man City boss in the Premier League.
Less than a year after succeeding club legend Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge, Tuchel took the FIFA Men’s Coach 2021 award at a ceremony which he attended after training via video link alongside familiar rival Pep Guardiola, who won the 2020-21 Premier League with Manchester City, and Italy coach Roberto Mancini, the Euro 2020-winning boss.
Stuttering Chelsea are 13 points behind City after losing 1-0 at the City of Manchester Stadium on Saturday as part of a run of one win in six Premier League matches, and Tuchel acknowledged that his side are trailing fellow nominee Guardiola's runaway leaders.
"It's pretty surreal," he said of the reward chiefly decided by Chelsea winning the Champions League in May 2021 courtesy of a 1-0 victory over City in Porto.
"I feel overwhelmed and a little bit uncomfortable, actually. We [are behind] Manchester City in the league but, in the other competitions, we follow our goals still. We are trying to compete at the highest level."
The former Paris Saint-Germain chief alluded to the backing he has received from his players and the Chelsea board, which includes Russian owner Roman Abramovich and key Director Marina Granovskaia.
"I enjoy the journey and the club," said the 48-year-old, who presenters noted is a more jovial character in person than he is when he cajoles his players from the sidelines.
"It's a good fit. The company on the journey, at the moment, is so, so good, so I am grateful to have such supportive people around me."
Chelsea's Emma Hayes also won the women's honor. Before the pair were recognized, one of the stars of Tuchel's reign, Edouard Mendy, won FIFA's annual men's goalkeeping award.
Signed by Lampard from Rennes for $30 million in September 2020, Senegal stopper Mendy was largely unheralded and had been looking for a club as recently as 2014.
"He’s been a revelation," said legendary goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel after the award was announced.
"It’s not easy to come from any other league and replace the most expensive goalkeeper in the world [Kepa Arrizabalaga].
"The year he’s had; the number of clean sheets, especially in the Champions League.
"One thing that’s really impressed me is his leadership right from the word go. The influence that he’s had in this team has been absolutely fantastic and very, very impressive."
Two Chelsea players who challenged for the Ballon d'Or were also named in the team of the year.
N'golo Kante finished fifth in that competition, two places behind Jorginho – so it was little surprise to see both midfielders make the judges' top XI.
A memorable moment involving two fellow London clubs, Tottenham and Arsenal, provided the Puskas Award for best goal of 2021.
One of Kante and Jorginho's former Premier League rivals, Erik Lamela, was playing for Spurs when he scored an audacious 'rabona' against Arsenal in the north London derby.
Cristiano Ronaldo was not shortlisted for the men's individual award – won by Robert Lewandowski ahead of Lionel Messi and Mohamed Salah – but the Manchester United and Portugal megastar was given the Special Award for becoming the top international scorer of all time, which he called "a dream" as he admired the "bling" of the trophy.
"I have to say thank you to my family, my wife, my kids," he said of his children and partner Georgina Rodriguez, laughing as he mentioned that he is about to become a father again, this time to twins.
"I'm really proud. I still have the passion for the game – not just to score goals, but to entertain myself, because I've played football since I was five, six years old.
"When I go to the pitch, even in training, I still enjoy... the motivation is still there, even though I'm going to be 37 soon.
"I feel good, I feel motivated. I have kept working hard since I was 18 years old. I love the game, I still have that passion and I want to continue.
"People ask me all the time how many more years I am going to play for, and I say I hope to play for four or five years.
"It's all about [being strong] mentally because physically, if you treat your body good, it's going to give back to you when you need your body."