Players from over 100 English clubs have chosen Mohamed Salah over Kevin De Bruyne as their player of the 2017-18 season.
Salah claimed the award at the annual Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) ceremony in London on Sunday, one day after scoring a record-tying 31st goal of the Premier League season.
The Liverpool attacker was selected over the Manchester City midfielder and four other shortlisted candidates – David De Gea, Harry Kane, David Silva and Leroy Sane – by players from all 92 English Football League clubs and 10 Women’s Super League clubs.
It’s the first of several player of the year awards in England, and therefore not the last we’ve heard of the debate. Because it’s a fierce one with no wrong answer.
The case for Salah
The Egyptian forward reacclimatized to life in England better than anybody could have expected. After 29 goals in two Serie A seasons at Roma, he’s banged in 31 and counting in his first at Anfield. He’s scored them against opponents big and small, with both feet and his head. He’s scored equalizers and winners and clinchers. With one more, he’ll break the record currently held by Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suarez and Alan Shearer for goals in a 38-game season.
When you think about Salah in that company – or, rather, surpassing that company – how could he not win player of the year?
He’s rendered the loss of Philippe Coutinho borderline irrelevant. He’s propelled a Liverpool attack that has already bettered last season’s lofty numbers. Sure, he hasn’t propelled his team to the top of the Premier League. But that arguably makes his individual performances more impressive. And while the last three PFA players of the year came from Premier League winners, the previous four didn’t. A title isn’t a prerequisite for the award – at least not when you blow away expectations and set single-season goalscoring records.
The case for De Bruyne
He’s also so much more than that. Formerly a world-class No. 10, he transformed himself into the best two-way midfielder in the world. In a deeper “free 8” role, he still led the Premier League in assists, Expected Assists, and every other chance-creation stat out there. He’s even scored eight goals, including a rocket Sunday against Swansea, despite not really being in a position to score many.
His versatility and all-around dominance was so crucial for City. Whether he was a menace between the lines or a surgeon from wide areas or indomitable in 50/50 battles and on the counter, he left his stamp on the vast majority of City’s games. He starred going forward while also ensuring City was rarely left exposed. He was integral to the league’s best attack, but also its best defense.
His season has outshined those of the three previous PFA players of the year – N’Golo Kante, Jamie Vardy and Eden Hazard – and he would have been an obvious choice if not for Salah’s incredible campaign.
Other end-of-season awards
Salah and De Bruyne are also up for several other player of the season awards. The others that carry the most weight are Premier League Player of the Season – voted on by a panel of experts, club captains and fans – and Football Writers’ Association (FWA) Footballer of the Year. There are also two player of the year awards voted on by fans – one organized by the PFA, the other by the Football Supporters’ Federation.
There are also other end-of-season awards, such as those for young players and managers. Manchester City’s Leroy Sane won the PFA young player of the year honor on Sunday.
The PFA also announced its team of the season earlier this week:
David De Gea; Kyle Walker, Nicolas Otamendi, Jan Vertonghen, Marcos Alonso; David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Christian Eriksen; Sergio Aguero, Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane.
Most other award winners and teams of the season will be announced next month, closer to the end of the Premier League season.
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