So another fantastic season of football in Europe comes to a close, and now the excitement is over there is time for reflection and analysis before things kick off again in a few month's time. Who stood out among the myriad of stars fighting for silverware across the continent – well here are my thoughts:
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/06/04/gerrard.gi.jpg caption="The all-action Gerrard had a vintage season for Liverpool."]
English Premier League
Player of the year – Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United)
The Serbian international matured into one of the best defenders in the world during Manchester United's title-winning campaign. The 27-year-old provided the muscle in a back line which proved watertight for much of the season. Vidic led United to a streak of 14 consecutive clean sheets. He also scored four goals, some of them crucial to his team's success in the league.
Honorable mention – Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
The league's third top scorer with 16 goals and nearly single-handedly kept Liverpool in the title race until the final weeks of the season. Playing further up the field, he provided scoring opportunities to Fernando Torres and Dirk Kuyt who both scored over 10 goals in the campaign. England's best all-round player had probably his best season to date.
Spanish Primera Division
Player of the year – Leo Messi (Barcelona)
You could easily run out of superlatives trying to describe Messi's performances in La Liga this season. The tiny Argentine was simply breathtaking, mesmerizing opponents' defences with his magical dribbling skills, and scoring goals of all shapes and sizes. His finishing was the skill which he improved the most in the last campaign as he tallied an impressive 23 league goals.
Honorable mention – Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid)
The European Golden Boot winner was a constant threat to goalkeepers all across Spain this season and finished with 32 goals in 33 appearances for Atletico Madrid. One of the hardest working strikers around, the 30 year-old Uruguayan international made the most of the goalscoring opportunities presented to him by Kun Aguero and Maxi Rodriguez.
Italian Serie A
Player of the year – Esteban Cambiasso (Inter Milan)
The heart and soul of an Internazionale side that dominated the Serie A. Esteban Cambiasso was ever present in the Nerazzuri midfield this season and was the first name on the team sheet for manager Jose Mourinho as his tough tackling and intelligent ball distribution made him indispensable. The 28-year-old Argentine international also pitched in with four goals during a stellar campaign.
Honorable mention – Diego Milito (Genoa)
To score 24 goals in the Serie A is tough, but to do it for a non-championship contender is even tougher, but that's what Il Principe accomplished this season. Despite being overtaken at the top of the goalscoring chart by Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the last day of the campaign Milito still earned praise from all corners of Italy for his spirited performances and deadly finishes. Impressed 'The Special One' who bought him for Inter next season.
Player of the year – Grafite (Wolfsburg)
Wolfsburg won their first ever league title thanks in large part to the goalscoring exploits of this Brazilian striker. An incredible 28 goals in 25 games from a late bloomer who had never scored more than 20 goals in a season in the top flight of any league before. He will be remembered this year for a fantastic solo goal against Bayern Munich in a 5-1 demolition of the Bavarian giants.
Honorable mention – Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich)
The silver lining in a dark cloud for Bayern this season. The Frenchman was just unstoppable and assisted more goals than any other player this season. His own tally wasn't bad either as the 26-year-old winger finished with nine goals. If it weren't for Ribery, Bayern could have easily finished outside the top four.
French First Division
Player of the year – Yoan Gourcuff (Bordeaux)
Proved he is a world-class player with a series of fantastic performances in France as he led Bordeaux to their first title since 1999. He was the maestro of a side who won the last 11 games of the season to clinch the league trophy on the last day of the campaign. Gourcuff, who was on loan from AC Milan, scored a career-best 12 goals and is one of the brightest young stars in European football at 22 years of age.
Honorable mention – Bakary Kone (Olympique Marseille)
One of the fastest players on the planet, the Senegal international gave Olympique Marseille a new dimension following his signing from Nice. The 27-year-old winger terrorized defenders all season long, setting up heaps of goals and getting on the score sheet nine times himself.
Coach of the Year
Pep Guardiola – A perfect season for the rookie coach who in his first season in professional management won an unprecedented treble – The Spanish League, Spanish Cup and Champions League. As impressive as the trophy haul was the way they achieved it, playing free flowing attacking football during most of the season. They finished their league campaign with a +70 goal average and were also the top scorers in the Champions League.
Most disappointing coach of the Year
Jurgen Klinsmann – He had to be relieved of his duties in the final sprint for the Bundesliga title race. Worse than their performances in Germany was their capitulation against Barcelona at the Camp Nou. It is inadmissible to concede four goals in a half, even against the almighty European Champions. The fact he failed to motivate a star-studded dressing room means it will be a while before he gets another chance at a top club in Europe.