Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is stunned Michael Carrick has had to wait until he is 31 for his first PFA Player of the Year nomination.
Midfielder Carrick was named in the 2004 Division One team of the year for his performances at West Ham. But he had never been among the names shortlisted for the main award until now, before the 2013 Player of the Year is picked on April 28.
"This has been Michael's best ever season at United," said Ferguson. "He's been absolutely magnificent. It's amazing Michael has had to wait until he's 31 to get nominated for anything - but he deserves it."
Carrick's Manchester United team-mate Robin van Persie is also on the shortlist, along with Chelsea duo Juan Mata and Eden Hazard. Favourite for the gong is Tottenham's Gareth Bale, with Liverpool's Luis Suarez also among the contenders despite his chequered past.
"Sometimes controversy travels with players," said Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor.
"Sometimes it is in their very nature. Sometimes the very intensity that causes a problem also makes sure they win.
"It is very difficult at times. Players are expected to be top role models and set the finest example. I don't underestimate the need for them to do all they can to be seen as a good example. But they are also human beings. It is not always possible to put old heads on relatively young shoulders."
In a shortlist that includes no defenders or goalkeepers, and no representation from champions Manchester City, the biggest surprise is the absence of Swansea forward Michu, who many believe to be the signing of the season.
City defender Matija Nastastic and Manchester United's Rafael are the main omissions from the young player prize. Bale and Hazard have been listed, with the competition coming from Christian Benteke, Romelu Lukaku, Danny Welbeck and Jack Wilshere.
For the first time, there will be a Women's Player of the Year prize, too, with Scotland's Kim Little among those nominated in addition to 20-year-old Arsenal team-mate Jordan Nobbs, who scored a stunning debut goal against Italy during England's triumphant Cyprus Cup campaign in March.