Hazard, Garcia take top gongs
Lille's trophy spell continued on Sunday night as Eden Hazard and Rudi Garcia were named Player of the Year and Coach of the Year respectively in the UNFP's annual awards ceremony.
After claiming a dramatic Coupe de France win last weekend and sweeping to league glory in a domestic double 65 years in the making, France's top side Lille were again amongst the silverware as the UNFP Awards ceremony took place on Sunday night.
Eden Hazard, winner of the last two Young Player of the Year awards, confirmed his continuing ascendancy in the French game by collecting the coveted Ligue 1 Player of the Year award. The young Belgian fended off stiff competition from team-mate Moussa Sow, Lorient's Kévin Gameiro and PSG's Brazilian winger Nene to claim the award voted for by his peers, last aswarded to OL's Lisandro Lopez.
Hazard: 'Icing on the cake!'
"What a season! We've had an amazing year, and my thoughts are with our staff and all the players," declared the uber-talented 20-year-old, who bagged seven goals and provided nine assists in his key attacking role for the French champions. "This is a reward for a whole season's work; it's a great reward for me as an individual and I'm very happy, especially considering the quality of the other players who were nominated. A lot of credit must go to my teammates. It's true that, as far as the UNFP trophies go, it doesn't get better than Player of the Year. The most important titles are the ones you win as a team, but this is the icing on the cake!"
Hazard's coach Rudi Garcia was also honoured, his feat of securing the league and cup double in his third season at the club deemed to set him apart from co-nominees Didier Deschamps of Marseille, Francis Gillot of Sochaux and Lorient's Christian Gourcuff.
Garcia: 'Unfogrttable moments'
"I want to share this honour with the people who work with me day in, day out. There is no way you can win this award on your own," said a humble Garcia, who succeeds Auxerre's Jean Fernandez as the coaches' coach in France. "All my technical staff and the medical staff who have worked incredibly hard all year to have the players in championship shape, and of course the players. It has been a joy to see them develop this season and sharing the Coupe de France and our title win have been unforgettable moments for me as a coach."
In the Goalkeeper of the Year category, Marseille's Steve Mandanda was rewarded for the consistently strong form that helped his side to retain their Coupe de la Ligue title and take their title defence down to the second-last day of the season.
Mandanda, Sakho honoured
"It's immensely satisfying, especially as there are so many outstanding 'keepers in Ligue 1," said the gracious 26-year-old France international in a nod to fellow nominees Hugo Lloris of Lyon, Monaco captain Stéphane Ruffier and French champion Mickaël Landreau of Lille. "So I'm very pleased to receive this award."
In the Young Player of the Year category, PSG central defender Mamadou Sakho earned the nod ahead of OM's André Ayew, Sochaux's Ligue 1 assists leader Marvin Martin and Rennes midfielder and France teammate Yann MVila.
"This awards is recognition of a lot of hard work, and is especially gratifying because, as a defender, it's pretty rare to receive awards," said the 21-year-old whose intelligent, staunch defending helped PSG to go all the way to the final as they looked to defend their Coupe de France crown and to still be in the running for a place in next season's Champions League. "In general, it's the attacking players who get the honours. So I'm here representing all the defenders in the French Championship, which is great for me [smiles]."
The full honours list:
Player of the Year: Eden Hazard (Lille)
Coach of the Year: Rudi Garcia (Lille)
Goalkeeper of the Year: Steve Mandanda (Marseille)
Young Player of the Year: Mamadou Sakho (PSG)
Ligue 1 All-star XI: Steve Mandanda (Marseille); Anthony Reveillere (Lyon), Adil Rami (Lille), Mamadou Sakho (PSG), Taye Taiwo (Marseille); Yann M'Vila (Rennes), Gervinho (Lille), Eden Hazard (Lille), Nenê (PSG); Kévin Gameiro (Lorient), Moussa Sow (Lille).
Ligue 2 Player of the Year: Sébastien Ribas (Dijon)
Ligue 2 Coach of the Year: Bernard Casoni (Evian TG)
Ligue 2 Goalkeeper of the Year: Benoît Costil (Sedan)
Ligue 2 All-star XI: Benoît Costil (Sedan); Sébastien Corchia (Le Mans), Grégory Cerdan (Le Mans), Benjamin Genton (Le Havre), Cédric Fabien (Boulogne-sur-Mer); Romain Alessandrini (Clermont Foot), Olivier Sorlin (Evian Thonon-Gaillard), Rudy Haddad (Châteauroux), Benjamin Corgnet (Dijon); Sebastian Ribas (Dijon), Sloan Privat (Clermont Foot)
Womens Player of the Year: Elise Bussaglia (PSG)
Referees of the Year: Anthony Gautier, Clément Turpin, Nicolas Pottier
UNFP's Trophée d'honneur: Just Fontaine, Michel Hidalgo, Philippe Piat, Sylvain Kastendeuch
UNFP Awards All-Star XI of the past 20 Years (voted for by the public): Fabien Barthez; Christian Karembeu, Lilian Thuram, Laurent Blanc, Bixente Lizarazu; Patrick Vieira, Robert Pirès, Franck Ribéry, Zinédine Zidane; Jean-Pierre Papin, Pedro Miguel Pauleta. Coach: Didier Deschamps