On Wednesday night in Oostende, journalists, coaches and past winners will decide who will be Belgium’s Gouden Schoen / Soulier d’Or for 2011. As the award is based on performances over a calendar year rather than on a complete football season, it can be tough to forecast the winner; this year it’s almost impossible.
From January to May, two players stood out from the pack: Standard’s Axel Witsel and Racing Genk’s Thibaut Courtois; now they play abroad – in Madrid and Lisbon respectively – and will not gain points in the second round of voting. Since the summer, three players have caught the eye: Anderlecht’s Guillaume Gillet and Matias Suarez, and Club Brugge’s Vadis Odjidja. Suarez and Gillet have been in good form since September but they will doubtless take points off each other; last season they were rubbish. Odjidja started this season in great form but the arrival of Christoph Daum has seen him cast in a more defensive and less high-profile role.
Other players in with a shout could be Jelle Vossen and Kevin De Bruyne but it’s unlikely they would have gathered that many points in the first half of the season, given Courtois’ prominent role for Genk. So, who will take the Golden Boot? I’m going for Courtois, primarily as Genk’s championship win will have given him the edge over Witsel. I see him building a commanding lead in the first half of the voting, with no one being able to catch him.
The player who probably deserves the award is Anderlecht’s Lucas Biglia, who is head and shoulders above everyone else in the Jupiler League. His form last season, however, was somewhat disappointing and in October he was taken out of the firing line – when in full flow – by a pre-planned shoulder operation.
The award ceremony itself does tend t be a bit tacky, which is sad. And as usual, people will be asking why gongs are being handed out at this time of year. The organisers – Flemish TV (VTM) and the leading daily “Het Laatste Nieuws” – have said they see no reason to change something that has worked for 58 years. So there you have it. If Courtois does win, he will be the first keeper to get the Gouden Schoen since KV Mechelen’s Michel Preud’homme in 1989.
“Gouden Schoen”/ “Soulier D’Or” winners
2001 Wesley Sonck – Racing Genk
2002 Timmy Simons – Club Brugge
2003 Aruna Dindane – Anderlecht
2004 Vincent Kompany – Anderlecht
2005 Sergio Conceiçao – Standard Liege
2006 Mbark Boussoufa – Gent/Anderlecht
2007 Steven Defour – Standard Liege
2008 Axel Witsel – Standard Liege
2009 Milan Jovanovic – Standard Liege
2010 Mbark Boussoufa – Anderlecht