Teddy Sheringham called it the 'the biggest personal award you can get in the game' when he won it in 2001. John Terry said it was 'the ultimate accolade to be voted for by your fellow professionals whom you play against week-in and week-out' when he received it in 2005. It is of course the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award and the votes are being cast.
Norman ‘Bites Yer Legs’ Hunter won it first, Robin Van Persie holds it currently and Christiano Ronaldo won it twice in a row in 2007 and 2008. It is the most prestigious personal achievement in English football but here’s the twist; for every odds on favourite there is an underdog, and we all love an underdog, so let’s take a look at some candidates.
Favourite – Robin Van Persie: When Manchester United recruited the former Arsenal man last summer some saw it as an expensive gamble considering the injury troubles the Dutchman had suffered during his time with the Gunners. But Fergie is usually right and so it proved as RVP forged a lethal partnership with Wayne Rooney to blitz all before him. Robin van Persie is generally regarded as the difference between Manchester United and the rest this term.
Underdog – Michu: It would be a surprise if the Spanish hotshot scooped the award in his debut season in the Premier League, however much he deserves it. History shows that it’s the glamour clubs that produce the winners, but if stats were votes then Michu would have a strong case as he is level with the Manchester United man on percentage of chances converted. Not bad for a midfielder who cost twelve times less than RVP.
Favourite - Luiz Suarez: The Uruguayan has to be among the nominees this year for his sheer persistence. Ok, so Liverpool fans love him but not many outside the four walls of Anfield share this affection for the buck toothed assassin. However, after patchy form and racist slurs marred his debut season, he would have been forgiven for turning tail and retreating to one of the more forgiving leagues. Instead, he has learned from his mistakes and now stands three goals ahead of Van Persie in all competitions. Just think of the possibilities if he stayed on his feet.
Underdog – Michael Carrick: A different kind of player to Suarez, the Manchester United man is in many people’s opinion long overdue some personal recognition for the mileage he lends to the Utd cause. Like Ray Wilkins before him who was known by his own and opponents fans’ alike as ‘The Crab’, Carrick is too often seen but not observed. It is too easy to overlook him as a sideways passer without giving him the credit he deserves for his all round game. He holds the team together and as well as being an excellent retainer of possession has attempted more attacking through balls than anyone this season. I repeat, Fergie is usually right. An unsung Hero.
Favourite – Gareth Bale: Most people’s overall choice, Bale won this award two seasons ago and has rocketed to 8/13 odds on. He has fired Spurs to third in the table almost single-handedly and is also third in the scoring charts. Why all the fuss if third is the best he can manage, you may ask? It’s the way he does it. Comparisons with Messi and Ronaldo are all over the media as Bale dribbles and shoots his way to global fame. His consistency level has increased dramatically and at only 23, the future is frightening for the Welsh wizard. Daniel Levy will have to be at his most resilient to keep the Spanish giants away from this one.
Underdog – Juan Mata: To call Juan Mata an underdog is something of an injustice to the silky skills of the Spaniard, but as attacking midfielders go, he must be considered some way behind Bale. Besides, it’s nice to have two products of the world’s greatest footballing nation regarded as longshots for a change. Mata has without doubt been Chelsea’s best player this season, forty five appearances, seventeen goals and twenty two assists say so and watching him play confirms it. Few would begrudge him the award, but the competition is strong.
Who are your underdogs for the award? Have your say below.