Wednesday 21 February 2018

Comment - This season's Premier League Player of the Year does not play for Man City

Kevin de Bruyne, Mo Salah and Harry Kane have been incredible this season
Kevin de Bruyne, Mo Salah and Harry Kane have been incredible this season
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

As Mohamed Salah was compared favourably to the incomparable Lionel Messi after his latest wonder show, the debate over this season’s outstanding Premier League performer reached a conclusion.

With just 12 games left to play in a one-sided ‘title race’ that lacked any kind of credible suspense, we will soon be entering the awards season that will require English football’s biggest names to nominate their outstanding performers and just for once, they should divert from convention and select Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah as their shining star.

While any hint of disrespect directed Manchester City’s all-conquering champions and their star man Kevin De Bruyne has been viewed as an act of treason against the beautiful game in recent months, the case for Salah to be recognised as the star man of this Premier League season was settled on Sunday.

As he fired what looked to set to be Liverpool’s winning goal in the 91st minute of an enthralling game against Tottenham at Anfield on Sunday, Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher offered up the ultimate tribute to a player who has defied his doubters in the grand manner since his return to the English game last summer.

“For the second goal he scored, there’s only Messi in world football who can score that,” declared Carragher. “If you think of Messi and the types of goals he scores, that’s what he does in tight areas, dinking the keeper.

“To say that about any player, sometimes you have to be careful it doesn’t get thrown back at you but what else can you say when he produces a goal like that?”

“I’ve run out of things to say. The unfortunate thing for him is that [Manchester] City are having such a good season with Kevin De Bruyne, otherwise he’d absolutely be walking Player of the Year.

“We’re seeing something extraordinary 40 miles up the East Lancs Road, otherwise he’d win it. I said a few weeks ago that I think he’s one of the best signings by the club in terms of the impact he’s made.”

Least we forget that there was scepticism over Liverpool’s recruitment of Salah last summer and some of that appeared to come from Reds boss Jurgen Klopp, who admitted last month he was only persuaded to sign the Egyptian who flopped horrible at Chelsea in his first Premier League adventure after persistent encouragement from the club’s recruitment team.

There were suggestions that this £37m recruitment from Roma was Liverpool’s latest attempt to recruit a cut-price addition to their ranks who could provide decent back-up to Sadio Mane or Adam Lallana if injury struck, but Salah has proved to be so much more than that.

His latest two goals against Spurs took his tally in the Premier League to 21 this season, yet it is the significance of his strikes against all of Liverpool’s primary rivals at the top of the table that has singled him out as the best player in the league this season.

He was instrumental in Liverpool’s 4-0 dismantling of Arsenal back in August, a scorer in the 1-1 draw against Chelsea in December, creator and executor of a sublime strike in January’s Merseyside derby against Everton at Anfield (above), one of the architects of Man City’s defeat at Anfield and Liverpool’s star man once more in their game against Tottenham.

It is a body of work that deserves acclaim and in the opinion of Liverpool goal scoring great John Aldridge, the Player of the Year award should only have one winner.

“I have to admit I wasn’t sure on Salah when he arrived in the summer and thought he might not be a regular in the team to start with, but he has been unbelievable from the off and has to be the Premier League’s player of the year,” declares Liverpool goal scoring great John Aldridge.

“His body strength has been too much for defenders to handle and while I don’t know what happened to him at Chelsea when Jose Mourinho decided he wasn’t good enough, the player we have seen at Liverpool this season is right up there with the very best in the game.”

De Bruye, David Silva and the rest of Guardiola’s dream team have flourished in a brilliant side dominating their opponents each week and Tottenham's Harry Kane deserves a mention in the Player of the Year debate after another stellar year of goal scoring, yet Salah has been producing the goods for Liverpool with relentless consistency in much more demanding circumstances, as he has carried Klopp's team on occasions when they have not been several steps ahead of their rivals, as was the case against Spurs on Sunday.

Inevitably, the biggest prizes in this Premier League season will go to De Bruyne and Manchester City, but they have achieved it all without having the best player in the league on their side - Mohamed Salah.

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