The last three footballers to win Sports Personality of the Year

With Raheem Sterling making the shortlist for the 2021 Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) award, there is rare chance of seeing a footballer named as the most influential British sportsperson. The ceremony takes place in Manchester this Sunday and with so few footballers having won the award, Sterling might be due one for his consistency over 2021.

Despite finding it difficult to break into this current Manchester City team, Sterling was still influential in the Citizens winning a Premier League and League Cup double, whilst also reaching the Champions League final and Euro 2020 final with England — where he played a more pivotal role. While Sterling isn’t the clear favourite in the sports personality odds, we thought we would look at three of the last times a footballer received the award.

Ryan Giggs – 2009

You have to go back over a decade to find the last time a footballer won SPOTY. Ryan Giggs may have missed out on the Champions League trophy with Manchester United, losing out to perhaps Pep Guardiola’s best iteration of his swashbuckling Barcelona side, but he still managed to pick up another Premier League title as well as breaking numerous footballing records for the Red Devils. The Welshman was enjoying his 20th season at the club and made his 700th start towards the back end of the campaign, despite losing his place as a regular at the start of the next season.

It is testament to Giggs’ longevity that this season saw him reinvent himself as a footballer, transitioning from a pacey winger into a central playmaker, still capable of dictating the tempo of a game regardless of his age. This would be one of his last individual honours at the club, announcing his retirement five years later and taking interim charge as manager after the sacking of David Moyes.

David Beckham – 2001

Affectionately known as ‘Golden Balls’ by the majority of England fans, the turn of the new millennium saw Beckham as clear favourite for the SPOTY awards and few could argue, with the iconic free kick against Greece going down in history to secure England a place at the 2002 World Cup.

The Three Lions had been underwhelming throughout the qualifying stages to say the least, but the piece of individual brilliance from the Manchester United winger broke Greek hearts whilst skyrocketing Beckham into superstardom and turning his reputation around after the red card against Argentina in 1998. Beckham claimed the award up against the likes of Tim Henman and boxer Lennox Lewis, and with 115 appearances in an England shirt, went on to become England’s second most capped player.

Michael Owen – 1998

Very rarely does someone come along at such a young age and burst onto the scene in the manor that Michael Owen did. Of all the Sports Personality of the Year nominees for 1998, Owen was by far the youngest, but became an overnight star on the international stage, with some great individual displays at Liverpool earning him a place in the Three Lions shirt, where at 18, he scored one of the best solo goals you are ever likely to see against Argentina.

While he would miss out on the World Player of the Year award to Zinedine Zidane, Owen would go on to win the Ballon D’or and later accompany the Frenchman when signing for Real Madrid. Although injuries curtailed an exceptionally promising career, it is hard to forget that Owen was such a devastating striker in his early years.

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