Right now it is a three way battle rather than the formality that it should be.
Despite Gareth Bale’s red hot form over the past two months making him the favourite for the award and Robin van Persie’s continued brilliance in front of goal for Manchester United, the best player in the Premier League this year is obvious, and a trophy is not needed to confirm what people surely already know but aren’t ready to acknowledge.
The award should, of course, always be given to the best player over the entire season and whichever way you dress it up, one man alone has been consistently producing performances worthy of such an accolade above all others. The problem and doubt occurs because these awards don’t always go to the players most deserving of them. There are always ulterior motives.
Ryan Giggs was voted player of the year in 2009 despite starting only 12 games and scoring once for Manchester United. Sure, it was a fitting gesture for a man whose career even back then was defying the boundaries of age, but taking the award at face value, Giggs’ win was little more than a farce. He was awarded the trophy based on sentimentality and as recognition for his longevity and professionalism, not because he was the best player in the Premier League.
The reason that this season’s outstanding player, Luis Suarez, is a distant third in the running for this year’s award right now has nothing to do with his performances on the pitch. It is down to his public persona. Suarez won’t win Player of the Year because people generally don’t like him. Sure, van Persie has been phenomenal for United and after a very good first 6 months of the season, Bale has finally gone into overdrive down at White Hart Lane, but neither have been as consistently enthralling or important as regularly as the Uruguayan this term. Suarez leads the goal scoring charts but that isn’t the half of it.
Suarez has bewildered defenders week in, week out and scored not only a great number of goals, but also a great number of great goals. He has played as a spearhead striker for most of the season, leading Liverpool’s forward line with little in the way of support around him.
Latterly, he has been deployed behind Daniel Sturridge and struck up, in a handful of games, the kind of telepathic partnership that usually requires months of practice to attain. He has even played on the left wing for Brendan Rodgers and still managed to excel. He is playing in a side that has little hope of attaining Champions League football and one that has included teenagers and underachievers as his main support acts for much of the season.
In Steven Gerrard’s mind he is the best player the Liverpool captain has ever played with. Think about that for a second. Michael Owen won the Ballon d’Or while playing with Gerrard. Wayne Rooney has featured for years alongside Gerrard for England. Fernando Torres was the best striker on the planet during his time alongside Liverpool’s skipper. Yet unequivocally, Gerrard rates Suarez higher than all of them. It’s little wonder.
Suarez’s superiority this season is no slight on the incredible contributions of Bale and van Persie who both produce wonderful moments at crucial times, which is indeed the hall mark of the world’s great players. However, while van Persie can stun opponents with one piece of cerebral movement and Bale can unleash an Exocet missile with an effortless swing of his elegant left foot, neither have been as influential as Suarez.
Wherever he is on the pitch, whoever the opponent, Suarez affects games with alarming regularity. It seems that no game in which he is participating in is ever more than a few seconds away from his involvement. Whether it’s leaving a defender eating the Anfield turf, killing a high ball with his chest and rounding Tim Krul to score one of the goals of the season or spraying one of the best passes you could wish to see to Daniel Sturridge at the Emirates, whatever the game, you can almost guarantee that Liverpool’s number 7 is on the verge of producing something special and stamping his authority on it.
This isn’t merely opinion, even the stats back up how influential Suarez has been this season in the Premier League. He has scored more goals than anyone else, he has taken more touches in the penalty area than any other player, he has played more key passes than any other forward in the league and he has also taken more shots than his peers. It’s a shame no one is counting nutmegs as Suarez has probably accrued more of them than the rest of the league combined.
For Liverpool he is essentially two players rolled into one. He is their goal scorer and also their best creator of chances. That is incredibly rare and it perfectly encapsulates his crucial involvement throughout the season. It is all the more remarkable when you consider that he is playing in a side that is a long way behind the likes of Manchester United or Tottenham.
Perhaps the best way to sum up Suarez’s dominance even over two outstanding talents like Bale and van Persie is that while those two players regularly produce moments that define games, Suarez has the propensity to dominate them from start to finish. His playing style is utterly unique. A blend of tireless work ethic, mercurial skill, inventiveness and lethal finishing, he is the most enthralling and entertaining player these shores have seen since Cristiano Ronaldo departed for Madrid.
It won’t be him, but regardless of who it is picking up the trophy, Luis Suarez is the Player of the Year.
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