This Sunday the Professional Footballers’ Association will announce this year’s Player of the Year. For me there is only one choice: Luis Suarez.
The number of goals he has scored this season is where most people will start, with 30 to his name already. He may yet break Alan Shearer and Cristiano Ronaldo’s all-time record for goals in a 38-game campaign (31), despite missing the first five games of the season!
Since then he has barely missed a minute, though, and has been consistently superb in every game he has played. He has obviously had a huge impact on Liverpool being where they are, on the verge of a first league title for 24 years.
It is difficult to measure just how important he has been to the title run. I’ve never been a fan of people saying things like, "Thierry Henry has left Arsenal, they will lose 30 goals a season now", because if he is not there then someone else will score those goals. They might not score as many as Henry, but another player will contribute—that's just the way it works in football.
Having said that, it is fair to say that Suarez has been vital to his side, not just with his goals but his overall play.
It has helped that he seems to have settled down a lot. He played well in both of the previous two seasons, but obviously he had the odd moment where he chose to do stupid things that suddenly overshadowed everything. His play-acting at times is still a bit too much now, but at least he is playing by the rules now—or at least just within them!
I’ve always said that he’s a fantastic player and if he concentrates on what he does best then he is one of the world’s finest; unfortunately his temper has let him down a few times in the past but now he looks a reformed person, and a transformed player. That has helped his performances on the pitch.
His quality, and his drive and ambition to win, has clearly also rubbed on the rest of what is a young squad. This is what the best players do, not only do they perform to their best but they also make the ones around him play better. That’s exactly what he has done this season, and for all those reasons and more that is why he must be Player of the Year.
Second on the list, for me, has to be Steven Gerrard. The transformation he has had over recent months is sensational; don’t think for one second that it is easy to convert from an attacking role to a defensive one virtually overnight.
The way he is playing that role at the moment is exceptional. Brendan Rodgers came out recently and said he wouldn’t swap him for anybody in the world, and I would have to agree with that.
As I wrote at greater length last week, Gerrard plays the defensive role like he has been occupying it for the last 15 years, and it’s a joy to watch. He gives the side balance, and he has been absolutely superb.
In some ways that is in contrast to that of Manchester City’s Yaya Toure, who is also on the PFA’s shortlist. I’m must admit I’m not Toure’s biggest fan, although to score 18 goals in a season is a real achievement.
The problem for me is that I feel the way City use Toure brings out the best in him, but not the best in the team. I think he has the most touches this season in the opposition half of any player in the Premier League this season. That is not the statistic of a defensive midfielder, that is an attacker.
This is a problem for City, because they are not well balance in midfield. Then they wonder why they concede so many goals, when they’ve got a central midfielder with stats like a No. 10!
That’s not necessarily his fault—maybe this is the way Manuel Pellegrini wants him to play—but I think he could be used in a better way for the team. I like him, I just don’t think he is in the league of some other midfielders. People get a bit carried away by the number of goals he scores.
He is undoubtedly very, very talented but I’ve also been left wanting more from him in the big games. He should be the one who makes things happen, but if you look at the games against the top teams this year he hasn’t really done it.
As for third on the Player of the Year list, I don’t want to be called biased—I would love to pick Raheem Sterling because he has been unbelievable!—so I think Eden Hazard is the man. He has been great. Obviously he has missed the last few weeks through injury, but what he showed before that was very impressive.
If he had been fitter for longer then I think Chelsea would be closer to Liverpool in the league, and it’s no coincidence that since he’s been missing Jose Mourinho's side have been losing games and dropping points.
He’s been the one attacking player who has been a consistent threat all season for Chelsea. He can be relied on—when you need something to happen, more often or not he goes ahead and does it. At the moment they don’t have anybody to do that and that is why they are struggling to score, drawing games 0-0 or losing them 1-0.
If Hazard keeps performing at this level in the future seasons then he is every chance of walking away with the top award one day. As it is, I think he will win this year’s Young Player of the Year award.
To be honest, I think that is a bit ridiculous—he is not a “young player” in my eyes. He might be young in age but he’s not young in footballing terms. They award is ludicrous, they should really restrict it to players who are in their first or second professional season, or players under 20 years of age.
You cannot have the likes of Daniel Sturridge on the list—he’s 24 and has 10 caps for England!
If you ask me, the Young Player of the Year should be between Sterling, Luke Shaw and Ross Barkley.