Krakow, Poland, December 18, 2017 – After winning the MVP award at an FIVB Volleyball Men's Club World Championship for the fourth time in his career, Osmany Juantorena pointed to his Cuban-born compatriot Wilfredo Leon as the real MVP of the 2017 edition in Poland.
“I am very happy to have been named MVP of this tournament,” Juantorena said in an interview for his Italian club Cucine Lube Civitanova’s media service after the team lost to Leon’s side Zenit Kazan from Russia in the Club World Championship final in Krakow. “But I would have preferred to win the gold medal match with my team. I think I was awarded the MVP award due to my five final appearances. This award usually goes to the winning team.”
Zenit Kazan's Wilfredo Leon, who settled for a spot on the championship’s Dream Team as an outside hitter, returned the compliments: “I would like to congratulate Juantorena! I did not play for the MVP title. I played for the gold medal and I did my job. It is my team’s first gold medal in this competition, so I am very happy with what we have done here.”
In fact, both players made a great contribution to their teams’ incredible performances throughout the Club World Championship. Their names feature prominently on most individual rankings, with Juantorena doing slightly better than Leon on digging, reception, serving and overall scoring, while Leon is ahead of Juantorena on spiking success rate and especially on blocking. Even when they faced each other in the final match, their stats could not unambiguously point to one or the other as the better player.
Wilfredo Leon (right), together with Cuban-born Yoandy Leal, both awarded as best outside hitters
They were not the only two Cuban-born players who had a great tournament in Poland. Actually, as many as half of the eight individual award nominations went to volleyballers born on the Caribbean island. Bronze medallists with Brazil’s Sada Cruzeiro Volei outside hitter Yoandy Leal and middle blocker Robertlandy Simon, also appeared on the Dream Team of the Club World Championship.
“I am very happy about this,” Osmany Juantorena said in a post-match interview for broadcaster Polsat Sport. “Although none of us can any longer represent Cuba on the volleyball court, we are honoured to still be connected to our native country. I am proud of us all.”
In that same interview, Juantorena reiterated his opinion about the MVP award: “Wilfredo Leon is the real MVP this year.”