The PFA Player of the Year 2014/15 shortlist is out and while there are few surprises among the chosen, the case for a first recipient from the goalkeeping fraternity in many moons, is compelling.
You have to trawl back through the annals until the shorts really were short, and the hair not so, to find the last winner of the award hailing from between the sticks.
Many world class goalkeepers have graced the English top flight since Nottingham Forest’s Peter Shilton won in 1977/78, but none, not even the great Peter Schmeichel, have managed to emulate the England stopper.
However, times may be changing and Manchester United’s David De Gea should be the next to raise the goalkeeping flag.
Few argued with Manuel Neuer’s inclusion in the 2014 Ballon d’Or shortlist, but not for a nanosecond did anyone believe Bayern Munich’s goalkeeper would actually scoop it.
Even Neuer’s outstanding contribution to Bundesliga and World Cup-winning campaigns was eclipsed by Cristiano Ronaldo’s contempt for goal-scoring records in a Real Madrid jersey.
Taking the six-man PFA shortlist into careful consideration, though, it’s quite easy to trim it by half to leave De Gea facing two realistic opponents.
All of Alexis Sanchez, Philippe Coutinho and Diego Costa have wowed this season, but none have shown the consistency throughout the duration of the campaign required to be crowned.
That leaves Harry Kane and Eden Hazard. Rather than state what this pair haven’t achieved it’s preferable to recognise that they’ve both been phenomenal in their own rights, it’s just De Gea deserves it more.
The Spaniard has been colossal, starting every one of his side’s 38 competitive games this season.
Kicking on from his Player of the Season award at Old Trafford in 2013/14, De Gea has literally saved United’s skin on myriad occasions this term.
While it’s difficult to place an accurate figure on the amount of points his saves have gained United, onlookers are unanimous that the Red Devils would not be in the top four right now without him.
As it is, the whole team has improved in recent weeks, but up until March perhaps, his heroics repeatedly kept the wheels on Louis van Gaal’s stumbling revolution.
Comparing him to Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois, who is widely regarded as the other benchmark for goalkeeping excellence in the Premier League, De Gea comes out on top in nearly every department.
He fends off the Belgian in overall saves, saves per game, saves to shots ratio, clean sheets and kick success rate.
If Man United can keep hold of De Gea this summer, it may be the best signing they’ve made since Ronaldo – twice a winner of the PFA award himself.
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