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. In this article we present the men ranked from fifth to eighth.
Best of 2021: Men’s countdown 5-8
Опубликовано 04:00, 12 янв. 2022
Who were your top players of the year?
Jenia Grebennikov's defensive prowess has long been one of the main strengths of the French national team. If in past years the French had a hard time putting everything together on the court, that finally happened in 2021, when they won a historic gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics and also their second Volleyball Nations League medal, a bronze. Arguably the most influential player in his position in international volleyball, the 31-year-old Grebennikov was a standout at both events, ranking second in digs in Tokyo and fourth in Rimini and making it on to the Olympic Dream Team. His year at the club level was also prolific as the Frenchman won a pair of bronze medals (Italian Cup and Italian SuperCup) with Modena and a silver (Russian SuperCup) and a bronze (Russian Cup) with Zenit St. Petersburg.
It's truly impressive how Maxim Mikhaylov has managed to remain one of the best players in the world for more than a decade. Since he joined the Russian national team in 2008, the 33-year-old opposite has offered a reliable and efficient scoring option. It was no different in 2021, when Mikhaylov massively contributed to Russia's silver medal campaign at the Tokyo Olympics. He came up big in the semifinals, producing a 22-point performance against defending champions Brazil, and tallied another 21 in the gold medal match against France, rightfully earning a spot on the tournament's Dream Team after he finished as the event's fourth-best scorer with 130 points. With Zenit, a club he has played for the last 20 years, 2021 included victories in the Russian Cup (with Most Valuable Player and best opposite honours) and the Russian Supercup.
Every year a young player comes out of nowhere to join the elite of the sport. In 2021, that player was certainly Alessandro Michieletto. It felt like the 20-year-old, 2.11m-tall Italian was playing 24/7 and, on quite a few occasions, his efforts were rewarded with a medal. Michieletto's international season was nothing short of incredible. He was an important part of the Italian roster that took gold at the European Championship and competed at both the Tokyo Olympics and the Volleyball Nations League. The outside hitter also joined the country's squad midway through the FIVB U21 World Championship, guided the team to gold and earned the MVP award. His club season with Trentino was also successful. They won gold in the Italian SuperCup, CEV European Champions League silver, and bronze from the FIVB Volleyball Men's Club World Championship, the Italian League and the Italian Cup.
Russia has a long tradition when it comes to developing some of the best middle blockers in international volleyball and the next name to be considered in that conversation is Ivan Yakovlev. The 2021 season wasn't a smooth one for the 26-year-old, 2.07m-tall player, and he was only able to join his country's national team with the Volleyball Nations League already started, due to an ankle injury. But when he picked up his rhythm, he became the blocking machine we all now know. He was at his absolute peak during the Tokyo Olympics, when his 21 stuffs (the third-best mark in the event) not only helped Russia secure the silver medal, but also propelled him onto the tournament's Dream Team. The blocker also won silver on four occasions with his club Zenit St. Petersburg (CEV Cup, Russian League, Russian Cup and the Russian Supercup).