Manchester United midfielder’s Common Goal project, in which players and managers donate 1% of their salary to charity, makes him a worthy recipient
The Guardian Footballer of the Year is an award given to a player who has done something truly remarkable, whether by overcoming adversity, helping others or setting a sporting example by acting with exceptional honesty. The inaugural winner was Fabio Pisacane in 2016
Each time you meet Juan Mata it’s a surprise how small he appears in person. You never expect a giant of a man to be only 5ft 7in tall, and to cut such a slight figure or to flash a warm smile, but the Guardian’s Footballer of the Year for 2017 has always made a habit of confounding expectations about himself and the game he loves.