One can argue for hours, days or weeks trying to decipher just what it is that qualifies someone to be nominated as Player of the Year in any elite football division.
Is it a stalwart defender that has shored up a team’s defence like none other?
Would a certain player have succeeded quite as much were it not for a certain star’s goal count?
Can a goalkeeper’s responsibilities really be deemed worthy of the highlight reel?
Whatever the answer, the nominations for this year’s PFA Player of the Year came out earlier this week and, as is ever the scenario, there’s room for debate on just who has and hasn’t been selected.
The following five players can feel aggrieved at being left out of the running this season and have been ranked from most to least deserving, regardless of the six stars who actually made the cut.
With not one defender named among the six-man Player of the Year shortlist, Jan Vertonghen should and undoubtedly would have been one of the names to spring to the minds of those making nominations in recent months.
The former Ajax captain has slipped seamlessly into Andre Villas-Boas’ setup at White Hart Lane, going on to become a quite crucial component of the team during his maiden season in the Premier League.
Strong, fast and with a shrewd eye for goal, Vertonghen has hit the back of the net on seven occasions for Spurs across all competitions this season, recording four assists in the process.
Not a bad tally at all for a defender.
Just as he does for the Belgian national side, the 25-year-old has proved to be an incredibly versatile asset under AVB, and while his strongest play might come from his natural position of centre-back, Vertonghen has also shown that he’s more than capable at left-back or in defensive midfield.
With 28 Premier League appearances, only Kyle Walker and Aaron Lennon have featured more for Tottenham in the English top flight this campaign, and a central defender reaching this stage of the season as his club’s fourth-highest scorer is no small feat, either.
From one defender to another, if Jan Vertonghen is a little upset to be left out of the Player of the Year running amongst defenders, Leighton Baines will be just a few paces away from mortified.
Linking up with Steven Pienaar down Everton’s left flank in as fine a fashion as any season before, the Goodison Park favourite is the only player yet to miss a minute of the Toffees’ 2012-13 Premier League campaign.
Not only has Baines been omnipresent but reliably consistent, too. In those 33 appearances, the former Wigan Athletic star has managed to score five goals and make seven assists, maintaining a pass completion rate of 82.4 percent, one of the highest of any Everton player to have featured in at least 25 games.
One of those leading David Moyes’ parade on the Premier League’s European places, Marouane Fellaini may have found himself nominated for Player of the Year honours had he managed to keep up the incredible form displayed at the season’s beginning.
Instead, it’s Baines who’s proved to be a far more consistent figure in the Blues’ lineup, a particular highlight of his season being the 35-yard scorcher of a free-kick against Newcastle United.
A constant staple in the running for end-of-season honours, the 2012-13 season showed further evidence of Steven Gerrard’s prestige as a world-class player, despite the ongoing hardships around Liverpool.
However, while Liverpool’s future participation in European competition might remain in doubt, what doesn’t is the quality of their leading man and eternal captain.
So far this season, the 32-year-old has mustered an improved total compared to the last campaign, scoring 11 goals and making 13 assists across all competitions for the Reds.
While not a direct comparison with the two Spanish maestros, that’s the kind of balance in attacking contributions that even Xavi and Andres Iniesta of Barcelona haven’t accumulated this term.
Without Gerrard, there’s no question that Brendan Rodgers’ side would be in a far murkier predicament than they currently find themselves in.
As a result of the one-club-man’s exploits, Luis Suarez has actually been handed the necessary ammunition to challenge for the Golden Boot this term and actually made the PFA Player of the Year shortlist himself.
That being said, while the controversial Uruguayan may regularly be found on the end of Liverpool’s scoring opportunities, it’s worth arguing whether he’d find such chances anywhere near as easily were it not for the man pulling all the strings.
Arsenal’s standout player this season, Santi Cazorla, has made light work of acclimating to the Premier league’s style of play since moving to Arsenal from Malaga last summer.
Including his eight assists, the Spanish international has created 83 scoring chances for his side in the Premier League this season, one of the highest totals of any player in the league.
However, Cazorla has also delivered a significant threat on goal himself and has netted 12 times in his 33 Premier League outings for the Gunners, appearing in all but one of their top-flight matches.
Struggling to tie down a top-four spot right now, Arsenal can be thankful for Arsene Wenger’s cut-price purchase in Cazorla, who has proved more than worth the £16 million that was supposedly paid for his signature almost 12 months ago.
According to WhoScored.com, the 28-year-old is averaging 2.5 key passes per game, boasts a pass completion of over 87 percent and has made 2168 passes this season, over 800 more than PFA Player of the Year nominee Eden Hazard.
Like compatriot Cazorla, Michu was a Spaniard coming to the Premier League’s shores for the first time last summer.
However, one significant difference meant a substantial difference in expectations between Cazorla’s arrival at the Emirates Stadium and Michu heading to Swansea City; that being that the latter cost and eighth of the former’s transfer sum.
With that in mind, Michu has certainly not let his low profile affect his standards on the pitch and could even be said to have thrived under the low radar placed upon him since his 2012 summer switch from Rayo Vallecano.
With 21 goals and five assists in all competitions, the 27-year-old has not only adapted to the striking responsibilities given to him by Michael Laudrup but excelled in his newfound duties.
Even though form has dipped slightly in the post-Christmas phase of the season, Michu remains among the contenders for Golden Boot this season and lent a major hand in bringing the Capital One Cup to Wales’ south coast.
The Swans’ top scorer by some margin this term, Michu has shone in his new surroundings and should feel slightly overlooked in the PFA’s eyes, helping his Welsh club to an incredible ninth place in the table.
Hailed by many as the signing of the season, Michu’s success is made all the sweeter by the fact that he came to the Liberty Stadium for just £2 million, a paltry fee compared to the latest price tags of others to have made the shortlist.