The PFA Player of the Year award: Will it be Bale, RVP or Suarez?
The votes are in and the wait is nearly over to find out who will claim this season’s PFA Player of the Year award at a swanky ceremony in London on Sunday.
The shortlist for this much-prized accolade comprises of Tottenham’s Gareth Bale, the Manchester United duo of Michael Carrick and Robin van Persie, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard from Chelsea plus Liverpool’s ever-controversial Luis Suarez.
Bale, Van Persie and Suarez are, on performance alone, the three leading contenders, but only one of them can win it.
This trio in particular have been talismanic figures for their respective clubs and have a knack of rescuing or winning games almost single-handily.
With so much going for them, how do all three stack up?
Here we reflect on how each player has fared this season and why they merit being crowned the best of the best in the Premier League by their peers.
Until the past couple of seasons, Bale was an established left-back. While he had played pretty well in that position, there was always a feeling that the Welshman had more to offer.
A move further up the pitch has seen Bale become more prolific in front of goal and he has flourished.
Bale has scored 23 goals so far this season in a free role behind the main striker, usually Jermain Defoe or Emmanuel Adebayor. A string of impressive performances have caught the attention of some of Europe’s biggest clubs, although Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has placed a £100million price tag on Bale.
Central to their attempts to try and get back into the Champions League, Bale has produced the goods against the Premier League’s big boys, scoring against both Manchester clubs, Arsenal and Liverpool.
Arguably the 23-year-old’s stand-out performance was against Aston Villa when he scored a hat-trick.
Bale would appear to be the most likely winner of the three, largely because he’s been the most consistent and has a goal record that most out-and-out strikers would be proud of.
Robin van Persie
“He has had as big an impact as anyone I can imagine,” beamed Sir Alex Ferguson after summer signing Van Persie’s hat-trick heroics against Aston Villa on Monday clinched a 13th Premier League title for United.
That three-goal haul took his Premier League tally to 24 since joining from Arsenal, one ahead of Suarez in the race to reclaim the Golden Boot that also helped him to win the PFA Player of the Year award last season.
A recent barren spell where Van Persie went 10 games without scoring, though, could count against him, as could the belief that he performed better at Arsenal in a team that never looked likely to win a trophy.
Nevertheless, Van Persie has excelled at United.
Goals against former club Arsenal, Tottenham, rivals City at the Etihad Stadium where his free-kick snatched a last-gasp victory and Liverpool meant United set the pace.
Should he win, Van Persie would follow in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo and Thierry Henry in being named PFA Player of the Year two years running. He would also be the 12th player from Old Trafford to lift the prize.
Like him or not, you cannot deny that it’s been a very productive season for the Uruguay ace.
Suarez has scored 30 goals in all competitions this season in a side that at best has been promising, including some against the biggest teams like Chelsea.
Goals also came for Suarez against bitter rivals Everton, Tottenham and Manchester City, but the failings of his team-mates, as well as some of his own, have undermined Liverpool’s disappointing campaign.
Despite being prolific this season, some of Suarez’s antics could see him overlooked in favour of Bale or Van Persie.
As the PFA award is given to the player who receives the most votes from their fellow professionals, it’s difficult to gauge how they view Suarez’s behaviour at times.
This weekend’s biting incident against Chelsea, not to mention previous misdemeanours including allegations of racism, highlight why he is an unpopular figure with rival fans, but is it the same with rival players?
Irrespective of his personality and disciplinary problems, if the award was given purely on footballing ability, Suarez would almost certainly be a shoo-in.
“I’ll talk all day about Suarez as a genius and a player,” said Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard last Sunday.
The question now is which genius will take all the plaudits on Sunday.