From January 10 to 16 we will be counting down the 12 best players per gender in 2021, looking back at some of the highlights of the year including the FIVB Volleyball Nations League and Olympic Games in Tokyo. We start today today with the men’s players ranked 9th to 12th.
Best of 2021: Men’s countdown 9-12
Published 04:00, 10 Jan 2022
Who were your top players of the year?
Brazil not making it to the podium at the Tokyo Olympics might have been a disappointment for Ricardo Lucarelli, but the outside hitter had little else to complain about in 2021. Showcasing a much-improved game after his first club season in Italy, the 29-year-old player was part of Brazil's Big Three, leading the country to their first victory in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League in June. The national team season was capped off with another gold medal at the South American Championship. At the club level, Lucarelli also had tremendous success despite switching clubs in the summer. He made it to the final of the CEV European Champions League with Trentino and also took silver at the FIVB Volleyball Men's Club World Championship, this time with Cucine Lube Civitanova.
Many would argue that 2021 was the year in which Barthélémy Chinenyeze made the biggest leap of his career. The 23-year-old middle blocker entered the season as an established player at the international level, but the level of performance he showcased during the year placed him among the very best in his position in the entire world. Chinenyeze was instrumental in France's historic victory at the Tokyo Games, was picked for the tournament's Dream Team and ranked fourth in blocks.
The players who got to represent Japan as the country hosted the Tokyo Olympics will all have memorable moments to look back at, but nothing beats what Yuki Ishikawa experienced during those two weeks. The 26-year-old outside hitter not only played for his country, but captained it to a quarterfinal appearance at the Ariake Arena, Japan's best result since Barcelona 1992. Ishikawa was also an important piece in the Japanese team that took silver at the Asian Championship and was a member of the tournament's Dream Team for a third-straight time. The highlight of his club season with Allianz Milano was the team's victory in the CEV Challenge Cup.
A serial title winner during his 15 years with the Brazilian national team, Bruno Rezende was able to add a new piece of hardware to his massive collection in 2021. As the team's setter and captain, he led the South Americans to their first victory at the Volleyball Nations League in June and guided the team to their fifth-straight (and his fourth) Olympic semifinal appearance in Tokyo. A few weeks after leaving the Japanese capital empty-handed, the 35-year-old setter was back on the court to masterfully lead Brazil to their 33rd South American Championship victory, when he received the Most Valuable Player of the tournament award. At the club level, he won his seventh Brazilian Superliga title by leading a star-studded Taubate roster before returning to Italy to play for Modena.