Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
To give it its full title, The Professional Footballers’ Association Men’s Players’ Player of the Year, is an annual award handed out to the player deemed to be the most outstanding performer during the season.
The prize-winner is chosen by a vote among his professional peers at the footballer’s union, which makes it one of the most prestigious individual honours a player can win.
There have been 9 different winners of the award in the last 10 seasons, the most recent being Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah who enjoyed a phenomenal Premier League debut season in 2017/18, while other recent winners include Luis Suarez, Eden Hazard, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante.
Somewhat unusually, voting for a particular season’s award can start as early as February, with the ceremony itself generally pencilled in for mid-April. Some of the Premier League’s biggest names have been tipped to win the award this season, though the race to win it feels decidedly open this year.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the early front-runners for the PFA Player Of The Year Award for 2018/19.
Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool) – 8/11
The transformative effect Virgil van Dijk has had on Liverpool’s defence since arriving for a world-record transfer fee last year has been well documented, and the giant Dutch centre half has gone from strength to strength his season.
While Liverpool have developed a reputation for their explosive attacking play under Jurgen Klopp, in truth, their title charge this season has largely been fuelled by the performances at the other end of the pitch.
Liverpool currently have the Premier League’s best defensive record, having conceded just 15 times in 25 games so far in 2018/19, and van Dijk has been the rock that the Reds have built their new-found robustness on.
However, while van Dijk is the bookies’ odds-on favourite to win the award, it should be noted that defenders are regularly overlooked when the honours are bestowed. John Terry was the last centre back to win Player of the Year in 2004/05, and you have to go all the way back to 1992/93 to find a winner from the same position before that, when Aston Villa’s Paul McGrath picked up the gong.
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – 6/1
Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah is the bookmaker’s second favourite to land the PFA Player of The Year Award, and should the Egyptian beat his teammate van Dijk to the honour, he will become the first player to win it in successive years since Cristiano Ronaldo (2006/07 & 2007/08).
Even though Salah hasn’t quite hit the same heights this season that he did last year for Liverpool, it’s testament to the 26-year old’s ability, that he is still his club’s and the Premier League’s current top scorer with 16 goals.
Alongside his goal-getting exploits, Salah has been Liverpool’s chief creator, laying on 7 Premier League assists for his teammates so far in 2018/19. The former Chelsea and Roma winger already looks well on his way to eclipsing last season’s assist total of 10.
It could transpire however, that Salah is a victim of his own success when it comes to winning individual awards this season. Despite his impressive numerical output for Liverpool, the fact that his performances have been a little less sprinkled with stardust this season could count against him.
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) – 14/1
Despite winning the Player of the Year award at his club twice and being a serial contender to win the PFA award itself, Manchester City’s prolific striker Sergio Aguero has never quite made it over the line.
The Argentine hitman is leading from the front in City’s pursuit of Liverpool at the summit of the Premier League table this season, and his performances for the Citizens in their most crucial fixtures could stand him apart from his Player of the Year competitors.
Aguero’s recent hattrick against Arsenal took his total in games against the other members of the league’s “Big 6” to an incredible 40 goals in 62 appearances.
This season, Aguero has bagged 14 goals in 19 league starts for City, the latest 6 of which arrived in his last 6 Premier League appearances.
Aguero’s current red-hot streak and consistent big-game impact makes him brilliant value at 14/1 to finally win what is arguably an overdue Player of the year award.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – 20/1
Strangely, Eden Hazard finds himself well down on the list of bookies’ favourites to be crowned the PFA Player of the Year, behind the aforementioned Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah, and Manchester City trio David Silva (11/1), Sergio Aguero (14/1) and Raheem Sterling (14/1).
With 12 goals and 10 assists in the Premier League this season, Hazard has been incredibly prolific during what has been an up and down campaign for the Blues under their eccentric new manager Maurizio Sarri.
However, even with his team moving from peaks to troughs and back again, Hazard is the only Premier League player in double figures for assists this season to date, and no other player in the division has completed more dribbles than the 28-year old (3.3).
When you consider the impact the Belgian has made, it seems a little peculiar to see him priced so generously. That does however, make him a potentially lucrative option for us.
Interesting Outsider: Paul Pogba (Manchester United) – 66/1
In the early throes of the season, most people would have scoffed at the suggestion that Paul Pogba would be in the running to win the Player of the Year Award, yet the supremely gifted midfielder seems to be peaking just as voting for the honour opens.
With 9 goals and 8 assists in the Premier League this season, in terms of the bare numbers at least, Paul Pogba has been the division’s most productive central midfielder.
Even though it felt like Pogba was often a peripheral figure under Jose Mourinho, the 25-year old has actually started 21 of Man Utd’s 25 league games this season, which is the same number of starts as Eden Hazard, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling.
Since Mourinho’s departure and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s temporary appointment as his successor, Paul Pogba has been back to his electric best, and his recent performances might just have launched him closer to the front of the queue for Player of the Year consideration.
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