The “who will win?” argument on the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) Player of the Year Award has been on even before the nominations were released. While it was clear who would be crowned champions (as Manchester City rightly claimed it), it has been hard to pick the ultimate player of the season in the English top flight.
As an indicator of its closeness; to wet the appetite and turn up the heat of debate, the final six-man shortlist was released last Saturday with season suspects; Kevin de Bruyne and Mohamed Salah topping the list.
Notable on the nomination list is the heavy Manchester City representation with Leroy Sane and David Silva joining Kevin De Bruyne. Manchester United goalkeeper, David De Gea stands as the only “man in the stick” as well as United’s sole representative just as England’s golden boy and Tottenham talisman, Harry Kane claimed the remaining spot on the six-man list.
With announcement due for April 22 in London, Abiodun Adewale weighs the chances of all six contenders. Of course, in no particular order:
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City and Belgium)
Ever since his £55m move from Wolfsburg in 2015, KDB has never had it so impeccable in the Premier League like he’s having it this season. He’s played in the heart of the midfield like never before and anytime he’s upfront, he entertains.
De Bruyne has had a magnificent season for Manchester City and has been pivotal in Pep Guardiola’s title charge as the cityzens went 16 points clear on the table to claim the title with 5 games to spare.
He has been everything City and Guardiola wanted in a player; a good range passer, a ball winner, excellent crosser and dead ball specialist with a killer delivery. His energy level week in and out defines City’s exhilarating football and in their quest, the Belgian has made 15 assists; more than any other player and scored 11 goals while he has also created 102 chances; more than anyone in the league.
Harry Kane (Tottenham and England)
Perhaps the real driving force for Tottenham didn’t make the final shortlist but here again is Harry Kane, the English wonder boy who keeps silencing his doubters every season.
Three years ago, he was tagged a “one season wonder”. Four seasons on, the Spurs academy product is in the race for his third consecutive Premier League golden boot though he’s four goals behind Liverpool’s Mo Salah.
Despite some hampering injuries, Kane has had a prolific season, breaking the 20 goal mark for the fourth successive season.
Leroy Sane (Manchester City and Germany)
Perhaps the revelation of the season as well, Leroy Sane wouldn’t argue that the 2017/18 campaign marked his breakthrough in the Premier League.
After enduring a tough start to life last season, the 22 year old took the Premier League by storm this term with his flexibility, pace, technique and elusive running.
The German was one of the central figures of Guardiola’s attacking blueprint and his scintillating talent saw him bag 9 goals and 12 assists for the citizens on their way to a first Premier League title under Pep Guardiola.
As fascinating as Sane is when he’s playing, pitching him against the likes of teammates David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne for the Premier League ultimate award is a bit over the roof.
By and large, it’s a deserved recognition and he’s in pole position to win the Young Player of the year award.
David De Gea (Manchester United and Spain)
Ironically, Manchester United’s sole representation for the top player’s prize is their 27 year old Spanish goalkeeper. It’s no surprise actually, United’s position on the log is their solace – they’ve had a somewhat flat campaign in Jose Mourinho’s second season in charge.
De Gea makes big saves on big days and it’s no exaggeration. The 27-year-old Spain international has been in excellent form again this season, keeping 16 clean sheets in 33 league games – the most in the top flight.
The Spain international is best known for his sharp reflexes and elasticity which have seen him record the highest saving percentage in the league. He has saved 80% of the shots he’s faced this season.
Although the Manchester United shot stopper is yet to win out rightly in the debate of the world’s best goalkeeper, he’s well established as the best No. 1 in England.
David Silva (Manchester City and Spain)
What a way to cap off an eight years spell at the Etihad stadium by David Silva! His transition has been remarkable even in the face of age and competition against fresh legs. There’s no one in that City squad who deserve a better season than him.
With over 300 appearances for the Manchester club, Silva remained relevant to Pep Guardiola’s free flow style and featured prominently as he propelled City to another Premier League title with five games to spare.
The creative 31 year old has provided 11 assists in the Premier League; only Leroy Sane (12) and De Bruyne (15) rank better than him in that category and he has scored 9 brilliant goals in all competitions for City.
Silva can’t put a foot wrong with his passes which has been one of the selling points of his game. In a stellar last season for City, the Spain international has an 89% pass completion rate which is higher than any other attack minded player in the league.
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool and Egypt)
Stats don’t lie and it emphatically says Salah’s first season at Liverpool has been nothing but staggering.
Most fans were indifferent about the impact the one-time Chelsea outcast would make at anfield following a £37m swoop from AS Roma; nine months on, Mohamed Salah is well established as Liverpool’s most important player and he’s currently the leading scorer in the Premier League with 30 goals and 9 assists to his credit as well.
The Egyptian has been the greatest benefactor of Klopp’s hard and counter pressing; and he’s returned that favour by spearheading the reds free scoring armoury by banging 40 goals in all competitions.
Salah’s goals and assists have earned the Reds 15 points – more than any other Premier League player. He has been involved in 51% of his side’s 78 league goals, again more than any other player and he’s still as sharp as ever to smash every available goal scoring record before the end of the season.
A common achievement of all the nominees is that each of them has done one thing more than any other player in the league. In the favourites corner, it’s hard to bet against Salah but Kevin De Bruyne has shown enough class to clinch his first individual prize in the Premier League.