The Premier League season is almost over, and we have a fairly good idea of where teams will finish. All that’s left to do is to hand out some awards, because if it’s one thing that famous millionaires in the prime of their lives need, it’s more adulation.
The real awards will be announced in a few weeks, with Harry Kane likely to be named Player of the Year over Eden Hazard (just to continue the build him up, tear him down cycle). José Mourinho will probably be named manager of the year, and the Team of the Year will feature nine deserving candidates and two absolute inexplicable shockers. The usual stuff.
Instead of going through the dull routine of naming the best performers of the season, let’s take a look at the most fraudulent. These awards are not for the worst performers, because that would be silly. For that, we could just cherry pick from the flaming pile of dog shit that is the bottom four or five teams in the league. No, these awards are meant to shed light on the charlatans: those players and managers that want us to believe that they’re good, but who are really just leading us in a merry dance.
Ascending to the level of a true charlatan is no small feat. Charlatanism — genuine sporting fraudulence — is more than merely being overrated. Anyone can be overrated, after all. The difference between “properly rated” and overrated is just a matter of degrees; a quantitative difference, if you will. But to be deemed a charlatan — a huckster, a snake oil salesman, a fucking footballing fraud — that is something entirely more elite. These are the chosen few who parade around as world class sportsmen when they are nothing more than utter impostors. Congratulations to the winners, scamps that they are.
Charlatan of the Year
Winner: Vincent Kompany
Honorable Mentions: Ángel Di María, Radamel Falcao, everyone Liverpool signed last summer
This was a close one. Di María could have very well taken this award, but he misses out due to a technicality. The waifish Argentine is not exactly a fraud, as he is still a breathtaking player, just one who has been stealing a living for months by blatantly refusing to give even a semblance of a fuck on the field. He’ll be brilliant for Paris Saint-Germain next year. Kompany, on the other hand, is a deserving winner and a charlatan in the purest sense. Not only is the Manchester City skipper not his team’s best defender, but there is a large contingent of Blues who feel that he never was.
Because he seems bright, has a high profile, and is assumed to be a cultured center back (he must be, he’s Belgian!), his propensity for costly mistakes is often overlooked. Unlike fellow Belgians Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen, who most sensible people now realize to be abysmal at actual defending, Kompany is still being allowed to coast on reputation.
City needs a rebuild this summer, and if it is to challenge for the title next year, Kompany will either need replacing, or players will have to brought in who can better cover up his weaknesses.
The David Bentley Award for Young Charlatan of the Year
Winner: Romelu Lukaku
Honorable Mentions: Jack Wilshere, Érik Lamela, Jordan Henderson
It happens all the time. We can’t help ourselves. A young player emerges, preferably at a big club, preferably carrying an English passport, and we crown him king of the future. Then a year later, we collectively realize that we may have jumped the gun. If there was a team award for signing the most young frauds in the last decade, Tottenham would walk away with it, but Everton’s Romelu Lukaku is the standout candidate in the Premiership right now.
The “new Didier Drogba” is by no means a bad player. Still only 21. It would be silly to write him off. He is a good striker who will get better.
But are we sure he’s that good? The move to Chelsea may have come too soon, and he’s done well in the last couple of years since moving on to smaller and more forgiving stages. His agent, Mino Raiola, would have us believe that there’s a generational talent in there waiting to explode, but he’s hardly looked like a player that is too good for Everton. Eight goals in the league isn’t much to write home about.
We’ve been hearing for years about how good he could be, but it’s looking more and more like the real answer to that question is “decent.”
The Andriy Shevchenko Award for Washed-Up Charlatan of the Year
Winner: Yaya Touré
Honorable Mentions: Robin van Persie, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand
Yet another award with many deserving candidates. Robin van Persie has secretly not been good for two matches in a row since February 2013. Rio Ferdinand has been collecting checks at QPR, despite being effectively retired since September. And with deepest apologies to LA Galaxy fans, Steven Gerrard is washed like fresh laundry. The only reason that Gerrard misses out here is because he has mostly – and belatedly – been confined to the bench recently. Instead, the man doing his best “JAY Z post-Black Album” impression is none other than midfield freight train turned defensive turnstile Yaya Touré.
Old man Yaya is still a force to be reckoned with on his day. There’s been no more dominant midfielder in the league over the last several years. But “his days” are now fewer and farther between than ever. Amusingly for a man who spent the first half of his career as a defensive midfielder, Touré is either unable or unwilling to track runners, or track back after losing possession.
He’s still a Rolls-Royce of a player, but one with the gas light constantly on. City will do well to cash on him this summer, before everyone else notices that he is W-A-S-H-E-D.
Managerial Charlatan of the Year; or, The David Brent Award for An Embarrassing Lack of Self-Awareness
Winner: Brendan Rodgers
Honorable Mentions: At least 80 percent of the managers in the Premier League
A certain amount of ego is needed to succeed as a manager as the top level, so there is no shortage of candidates for the managerial charlatan of the year. Louis van Gaal was dangerously close to being in contention until a couple of months ago, Bantersaurus Rex™ Tim Sherwood is a future winner of this award, while “genius” Roberto Martínez can count himself unlucky to miss out. But Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers put the result beyond doubt this weekend when he not only got out-coached by Sherwood but also dropped this gem after his team’s FA Cup semifinal humiliation: “Sometimes you can want to win too much.” Christ on a bike.
Rodgers is a clearly a good coach. But he’s not nearly as clever as he thinks he is, mostly because he obviously thinks himself very, very clever. The shameless and relentless self-aggrandizement and self-congratulation is annoying enough, but it’s made worse by his constant use of meaningless faux-philosophical corporate speak.
Stop it, Brendan. Focus on actually winning something, instead of patting yourself on the back every chance you get, and talking in every press conference like a giddy first year MBA student. It’s a huge hint that you may in fact be an irredeemable charlatan.