This evening sees the great and the good gather in Vilvoorde to crown the winner of the Belgian Golden Shoe (de Gouden Schoen in Dutch / le Soulier d’Or in French). It is awarded to the best player in the Jupiler Pro League over the last twelve months, which means that Belgian players playing abroad for the entirety of this peiod are ineligible but players of any nationality may be considered, even if they no longer play in Belgium.
Voting is restricted to journalists, referees and other important non-playing figures (there is a separate award voted for by the players) and like the French Presidential Election, it takes place over two rounds – one for the period between January and July 2012 and one for the current season up until the winter break. Last year, Matias Suarez amassed his entire score of 230 points in the second round, pipping Axel Witsel, whose total of 213 came entirely in the second before he left Standard Liège for Benfica.
Anderlecht striker Dieumerci Mbokani is the overwhelming favourite ; he would become the third Mauve in succession to win the prestigious award following Matias Suarez and Mbark Boussoufa. The DR Congo striker, who is currently at the Africa Cup of Nations, modestly(!) explains why he is so hotly tipped to win tonight:
“I am the hot favourite. Everyone says so, ” he told Sport/Foot magazine. “I think I can make an impact in the first and second rounds of voting as I have played very well from the first game to the last. This season, I set myself the goal of scoring 20 goals and I’ve already got 14. Accordingly, I need to revise my target upwards. I stood up to be counted in all the big matches: against Limassol, Zenit and Malaga. The most important for me was the goal against the Cypriots: what emotion!”
“I am the best player in the league, everyone is in agreement with that but four years ago, most journalists said the same thing and it turned out subsequently that they had not voted for me.”
All the indications are that it will be as difficult to stop Mbokani from winning as it is for defenders up and down the country to stop him in his tracks. The only way he can be stopped is if Johan Boskamp is given the casting vote given his admission that he only votes for Belgian players.
Who are the contenders for the runners-up slots then? Jelle Vossen has been an extremely consistent goalscorer for Racing Genk and has continued to do the business long after having earned a move abroad (how he must look enviously at Benteke in spite of Aston Villa’s problems) while Carlos Bacca has exploded into life this season after his much-heralded signing in January didn’t lead to immediate fireworks. Kevin De Bruyne and Matias Suarez may do well in the first round with Zulte Waregem maestro (he’s more worthy of the name than Didier Zokora!) Franck Berrier and Thomas Buffel are two to look out for in the second.
Personally, while I must be consistent in calling for Mbokani to win having named him as the best player in the league, it would be nice to see Silvio Proto (left) receive some long overdue recognition. It’s always more difficult for goalkeepers to win individual awards despite them being the most important players on the pitch and Proto’s case is no different. A place in the top three at the very least would be fitting for a player who has bailed Anderlecht out countless times, often when more high-profile players were underperforming.
There will be a number of other awards handed out tonight. Here are my choices:
Gouden Schoen / Soulier d’Or: Dieumerci Mbokani (RSC Anderlecht)
Best goalkeeper: Silvio Proto (RSC Anderlecht)
Breakthrough star: Junior Malanda (Zulte Waregem)
Goal of the year: Frédéric Bulot (Standard Liège v Anderlecht)
Fair Play award: Tom De Sutter (RSC Anderlecht)
Best WAG: Magali Suarez (she’s not even in the running and Elke Clijsters is the favourite)
And just for fun…
Best Belgian player abroad: Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid)
Who would you like to see winning the Golden Shoe and why? Leave your comments below. All comments in English, French or Dutch welcome.