Kevin De Bruyne and Mohamed Salah are the outstanding candidates for the Player of the Year prize. But which of them should claim the gong?
Liverpool against Manchester City throws up a number of intriguing sub-plots as the only two remaining Premier League sides in the Champions League go head-to-head in the quarter-finals.
Jurgen Klopp is one of the few managers around to have a strong record against City’s Pep Guardiola, for example, while the Catalan is seeking his third Champions League title as a coach after relative failure in Europe with previous club Bayern Munich.
But much of the attention will be around the two teams’ respective star players, with City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne set to face off against Liverpool’s Egypt international Mohamed Salah over the two legs.
The pair have been tipped as the two outstanding candidates for this season’s major player of the year awards in England – but which of them deserves the honour? Three of Omnisport’s writers – Rob Lancaster, Jamie Smith and Joe Wright – make their case.
Mohamed Salah – Rob Lancaster
From Chelsea flop to the (Egyptian) king of the Kop, Salah has exceeded expectations with his scoring exploits in his first season at Anfield.
Signed from Roma to help add further firepower to Klopp’s squad, the forward has become bigger than The Beatles on Merseyside. Okay, that isn’t quite true, but comparisons to Lionel Messi and links to Real Madrid illustrate the player’s rise since his arrival in the Premier League.
Salah has already surpassed Fernando Torres’ record for the most competitive goals in a debut season for Liverpool and is on course to deny Harry Kane a third successive Golden Boot.
He scored on his league debut away at Watford and hasn’t looked back since, using his devastating combination of speed and skill to torment defenders while drifting inside from his position on the right of a front three.
Forget the critics who suggest Salah is nothing more than a one-season wonder and instead praise his historic achievements.
Kevin De Bruyne – Jamie Smith
In another season no argument would be needed, so it is testament to Salah’s incredible performances the matter is even up for debate. But City have been the league’s best team by such a huge distance it would be perverse for this not to be recognised in individual awards.
De Bruyne has been supreme, excelling in the deeper role assigned by Guardiola. His 15 assists and seven goals in the Premier League are impressive enough, but they tell half the story.
The Belgian has run matches single-handedly, with his match-winning performance in a 1-0 victory at reigning champions Chelsea arguably the stand-out showing by an individual all season. De Bruyne has been remarkably consistent too, never having a bad game and increasing his performance levels for the biggest games.
City have completely dominated the Premier League this season and a large part of their success has been down to De Bruyne. He is the undoubted player of the year.
77 – Since his Werder Bremen debut in August 2012, Kevin De Bruyne has provided 77 assists in Europe’s big 5 leagues, more than any other player in that time (Lionel Messi, 76). Generous.
Neither of them – Joe Wright
Nobody can deny De Bruyne and Salah have had magnificent seasons. In fact, critics of Jose Mourinho and his transfer policy seem to remind us on social media on a weekly basis.
Neither deserves this prize, though; not even De Bruyne or Salah. That honour should go to David Silva.
An indelible part of City’s rise into the European elite, Silva has, unlike Yaya Toure, become even more prevalent under Pep Guardiola. He has regularly captained the team and, like De Bruyne, has not gone more than three league games without a goal or assist in 2017-18.
Beyond that, Silva has had to contend with horribly difficult personal circumstances. The premature birth of his son has left him spending much of the second half of the season flying back and forth to Spain, often missing matches or arriving late the day before a game.
This award would be no sympathy vote, though. During these turbulent months, the 32-year-old’s form has never dipped. He has scored winning goals against Stoke City, Manchester United and West Ham, set them up against Bournemouth and Chelsea, and netted against Arsenal after sitting out two league games with injury.
In their worst games of the season, City laboured against Newcastle United, drew with Crystal Palace, lost to Liverpool and were held by Burnley. Silva missed them all. De Bruyne makes them better; Silva makes them great.