The reality hasn't truly set in for Alejandro Pozuelo just yet, but on Monday the Spaniard became the latest player honored with the Landon Donovan MLS MVP award.
In the most unique of seasons, Pozuelo's star shone brightest. He continued his stellar form from his debut campaign in MLS last year and took it to even another level, with nine goals and 10 assists in 23 matches. He was first in MLS in chances created and tied for first in big chances created.
Pozuelo even started every single game for Toronto FC, despite games coming thick and fast in the pandemic-compressed campaign.
“It means a lot to me," Pozuelo told media on a virtual press conference with a soft smile. "I still don’t believe I’ve won the award. I’ve very proud. ... Maybe tomorrow when I see everybody on Instagram or in the press, I can believe more. But now? I still can’t believe it.”
Pozuelo is the second Toronto FC player to win the award, following Sebastian Giovinco. Poetically, Pozuelo was signed in large part to replace Giovinco's output at the club after he transferred to Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal.
The attacking midfielder was in fine form for a few seasons in Belgium with KRC Genk before joining Toronto. Pozuelo, 29, believes he's been playing at the peak of his powers for a couple of years and isn't expecting to slow down anytime soon.
“I played three good years in Genk, I was also nominated in Belgium for best player… so I’ve had a few really good years," Pozuelo said. "I know before me I came to replace Giovinco, everybody spoke about this. I believe in myself, I know I can play good but I feel like I’ve played four or five years at a very good level. Next year I’ll try to do the same.”
Next season will provide its own challenges for Pozuelo and Toronto. Pozuelo admitted he was carrying an injury at the end of TFC's season, which ended with a playoff loss to Nashville SC, while club legend head coach Greg Vanney decided to step away.
Pozuelo was sure to save a special shoutout for his now-former coach.
“We have a very good relationship, inside and outside (of soccer)," Pozuelo said. "He’s a very good person, a very good coach. He pushed me a lot to play at my highest level. … He helped me a lot to win this award, I want to say thank you to him.”