At long last, Chicago Fire forward Nemanja Nikolić has his 2018 “Best MLS Player” ESPY Award in his hands.
On Friday afternoon at Toyota Park, Nikolić formally unboxed his latest accolade earned after a sterling 2017 season after being announced the winner at the ESPY Awards ceremony back in July. The ESPY Award now adds to an individual haul that also saw the 30-year-old win the league’s 2017 Golden Boot Award and be named to the MLS Best XI after netting 24 times for the Men In Red in his debut season in Chicago.
“When you achieve something from the fan vote, it means they like your game, they like your style, and appreciate the things that you do on the field,” Nikolić said. “This is why this award is so important for me, because it came from the fans. I just want to thank them. They believe in me, and they’re thinking that I deserve this great award. Thank you very much one more time.”
The Best MLS Player Award has been given out by the ESPYs as a fan vote since 2006. Former winners include the likes of Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Sebastian Giovinco, and David Villa. This year, Nikolić was nominated alongside Portland Timbers playmaker Diego Valeri and Sporting Kansas City duo Ike Opara and Tim Melia.
“I’m really proud because I know before me that a lot of big players win this kind of award. More than that, I’m also proud that I chose really good to come here in this league and to compete. I’m really happy and motivated to make other great seasons like I’ve made before, and to win some individual and – what is most important – collective trophies.”
In the meantime -- while looking to continue adding to his 15 MLS regular season goals in 2018 -- Nikolić is excited to find a place for the award among all his others and to continue making his kids proud.
“I want to make some nice room for it, and to make the important things I’ve won until now,” he said. “Later, I want my kids to look at that and be proud of their dad. For me, it’s also good just to see some things you’ve won in your career. It makes good memories for you. For sure this one will have a special, special place in that room.”