By Ultan Corcoran@UltanCorcoran

Bundesliga End of Season Awards: Mainz's Player of the Season

Securing a total of 5 votes from our team of writers, Netherlands youngster Sepp van den Berg has picked up the Bundesliga Player of the Season accolade for 1.FSV Mainz 05.

Mainz and defensive solidity. Where have we heard that line before? While the club from the Carnival city shipped some heavy defeats including an 8-1 mauling at the hands of Bayern Munich, but otherwise they remained compact and tricky to beat. Although no longer their manager, something clicked with Mainz since Bo Svensson first took charge in 2021. The club have finished with the 7th, 10th, and 4th best defensive records in the last 3 campaigns. A testament to the squad’s ability given their lack of a consistent goal-scorer since the Shinji Okazaki days. Despite a shaky season with 30 of the 34 Matchdays spent in the relegation spots, that defensive resilience shone through late on.

At the core of their performances was the assured presence of Sepp van den Berg. Like an experienced head on young, 22-year-old shoulders, the Dutch Under-21 international looked right at home in that Mainz back three. On loan from parent club Liverpool, van den Berg missed out on just a solitary game through suspension on Matchday 12. At 1.92 metres in height, Die Null-Fünfers possessed an aerial weapon from set-pieces which van den Berg found the net from 3 times. Each goal played a massive role in Mainz’s survival with game-winning strike on two occasions and a draw in the other.

On the defensive side of things, Sepp van den Berg comes into his own when plying his trade. According to fbref.com, the Liverpool loanee can be found in the 98th-percentile averaging 2.06 blocks per game, while boasting 99th-percentile statistics in the aerial duels won department. Of which he emerged victorious in the air roughly 5.29 times per 90-minute shift for Mainz. It comes as no surprise that his market valuation has risen from €5million to €7million in the space of a campaign (transfermarkt.com). A young star destined for a career of greatness.

STANDOUT MOMENT:

Sepp van den Berg saved his best performance of the season for the last match of the season. An away trip to VfL Wolfsburg looked comfortable on paper. Mainz held a favourable goal-difference on relegation rivals, but in truth they weren’t out of the woods just yet. American youngster Kevin Paredes struck in the 18th-minute for Die Wölfe as Bo Henriksen’s side slipped into the play-off spot. Fortunately, a swift response from Brajan Gruda restored parity for the visitors on a cagey Matchday 34.

The game wore on, unaware of the goings-on in other matches around the Bundesrepublik, van den Berg struck. A 71st-minute set-piece swung in from the right flank by Nadiem Amiri met the head of the Netherlands defender. Credit to Koen Casteels who repelled the goal-bound effort, but he could do little about the follow up as van den Berg reacted smartly to hook it past the prone shot-stopper. Mainz in the ascendency and ultimately the decisive second goal in what would be a 3-1 win away in Lower Saxony. Three points to rise clear of the drop zone into the safety of 13th-place.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

Nadiem Amiri can count himself unlucky to miss out on top spot falling just shy of the mark with 3 votes. The German midfielder on loan from Bayer Leverkusen enjoyed a terrific Ruckrunde, producing a goal and 4 assists in 16 starts. Many attributed his performances with the Mainz rebound under Bo Henriksen. With a solitary vote, Leandro Barreiro also featured. The Luxembourg international found the net 4 times and supplied 1 assist all while carrying out his intense box-to-box duties.

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