A fiery debate takes place every year which awards the Premier League Player of the Year to the best footballer in the division. The usual suspects are put up for the award, seldom anyone but forward players, and this season is going to be no different.
Two players stand out for their teams - who have both been phenomenal in their own regard - and have been a cut above everyone else this season. It is the obvious duo of Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne and Liverpool’s Mo Salah.
One set of fans is going to be bitterly disappointed their man didn’t win the award, but here’s Liam Canning’s take on who deserves to be crowned the Premier League Player of the Year:
Kevin De Bruyne
After being sold by Chelsea in 2014 to Wolfsburg, not many thought that the Belgian would make a comeback to the Premier League. Not least of all with Manchester City.
However, four years later, the Belgian is on course to winning his first Premier League title. De Bruyne has had arguably his greatest ever season in a football jersey and has been a pivotal member of Pep Guardiola’s team.
While it has been a disappointing 10 days for City, those poor results shouldn’t get in the way of the celebrations when they eventually do win the Premier League title. 11 goals and 20 assists in all competitions show the Belgian international’s contribution to the club this year, but goals and assists are not the only measure of the man.
When Guardiola deployed De Bruyne as a number eight, instead of a 10 in the playmaker’s role, there were queries being raised. However, just like Roberto Martinez knew, the Spanish manager had faith in the former Wolfsburg player’s ability to read the game intrinsically and be pragmatic when there’s a need to be.
The most eye-pleasing attribute De Bruyne has is his vision for a pass. While the pass itself is beautiful and the execution is to a world-class standard, the vision of even seeing the pass to begin with is simply supernatural. He has been the pass master over the last 12 months and has most fans’ jaws dropping to the ground when they watch him perfect his craft.
De Bruyne’s main contribution has been his pre-assists. While it is not a metric that can be easily followed, most of City’s offensive play is led forward by De Bruyne. He is usually the main man to supply the assist before the assists, most probably through David Silva, takes place. So while it doesn’t add to his tally chart, it is obvious when you watch the Citizens how important he is to their team.
Another former Chelsea youngster is the contender to De Bruyne for the Player of the Year award. No one expected Salah to perform to the world-class level he is currently operating at when he made the switch from AS Roma to Liverpool last summer. That £35million fee now looks measly and a complete undervaluing of Roma’s star player - hindsight is a wonderful thing.
The Egyptian King, as the fans like to call him, has consistently scored and influenced matches throughout the season. Salah has been completely ruthless from start until present day, especially in the Premier League.
Leading the Golden Boot race ahead of Harry Kane with 29 goals in 31 appearances, the wide forward has been destructive with the ball at his feet. Although most defenders now know that he is likely to cut inside to shoot, it is so hard to dispossess the Egyptian due to his close control and intelligence of getting out of sticky situations. In that regard, he has been compared to Lionel Messi.
What is so impressive about Salah’s performances is his ability to trick his opponents with a variety of skills to his game. He isn’t as obvious as Arjen Robben when he wants to come inside, and it is so difficult to man-mark the Egypt international due to his freedom on the pitch allowing him to roam into spaces on the other side of the pitch. Salah wreaks havoc for teams who are trying to man-mark the opposition rather than mark zonally.
It is hard to fathom how Liverpool recruited Salah for such a cheap fee just nine months ago, but it has to be some of the best business in recent years. Salah is as consistent as they come and still well within his prime years.
Salah became the first ever Premier League player to win three Player of the Month awards in the same season this week. He has broken records throughout the year and will look to take Liverpool into the Champions League final after being drawn against former club Roma.
He deserves this award wholeheartedly - even if it is a close call with De Bruyne - and Jürgen Klopp, as well as the Reds’s fans, will be hoping they can keep a hold of their King for many years to come.
Perhaps the overall moral of the story is that Chelsea need to be more diligent and trusting in their incredible youth players.
This article was written for Soccer Box by Liam Canning. Shop with us for all your official Premier League football kits including the latest Man City and Liverpool shirts.