De Bruyne and Salah are in contention for the half-century award
The APL has three awards for player of the season
In May, the league released its list of nominees for Player of the Year. There were Salah and Alexander-Arnold, Bowen, Cancelou and De Bruyne, Son, Saka and Ward-Praeus. The winner was voted on by fans, soccer experts and club captains in the APL. Kevin De Bruyne won, while Salah, with his 23 goals and 13 assists, was left out of the award, which he had only received once, four years ago.
Parallel votes were cast by members of the Football Journalists Association, which has about 400 British experts. It was founded by Chalz Buchan, the legendary Sunderland striker, champion of England in 1913. Later the England forward became a sports journalist, was among the founders of the association, which first awarded Sir Stanley Matthews in 1948. Their 38 prizes went to the English, 9 – the Scots, 7 – the French.
This year, for the second time, Mohamed Salah won. British journalists know their soccer very well, we can safely rely on their expertise. They have watched almost all the matches of the season in the APL and decided that the Liverpool forward can be placed above the Manchester City midfielder. The two prestigious prizes have been given away, but there remains one more – the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) Player of the Year. They are highlighted by the list of contenders.
Soccer players “rolled” Son Heung-Min
The difference between the nominees from the APL and the Professional Footballers’ Association is serious. It’s not only in the different number of applicants for the award – six against eight – but also in the names themselves. Only two names matched – Salah and De Bruyne. But the PFA also singled out van Dijk, Mane, Ronaldo and Kane. This whole list raises questions, but first, let’s remind ourselves who is missing most acutely.
Sohn had a classy season in the APL. Best sniper in the league, all 23 goals from the game (Salah had 5 from penalties). The Southern legman is unlikely to leave for Liverpool, where he is called up to replace Mane, although Klopp has said he would consider doing so if Tottenham were to drop out of the Champions League. The Asian has played for years in the Spurs squad, and so far Sonaldo’s status is not that of a mother’s girlfriend’s son, but that of Di Maria – cool and underrated.
Spurs’ number seven has created 30 goals (7 assists, besides accurate shots), and to do so in a team that was changing its head coach and where key sniper Kane caught a moping early in the season due to the breakdown of the transfer to Manchester City. Harry scored just one goal in the first 17 rounds. Son was left off the list for nothing. He could have been put in place of Mane. Also, Alexander-Arnold and Cancela, not just Heung-Min, had a great season in the APL.
The third award is prestigious and ancient
Soccer players like to create idols for themselves, examples to inherit, if you will. Obviously, the defenders chose van Dijk because they admire not only his game, but also the limits of his capabilities. Ronaldo was voted for because many young professional soccer players in England have long been his personal fans. They know that the Portuguese has scored the most at MJ and that the club is in the Europa League – they don’t care.
There are no questions about Salah and De Bruyne, although they are also on the stars’ quota. Footballers have been presenting their award since 1974, and for the first time the prize was given to Norman Hunter, the Leeds legend and world champion. Often the Association has found an opportunity to give the award to an Englishman – Terry, Gerrard and Rooney. But since 2011, when Gareth Bale won for the first time, the prestigious prize has always gone to the Legionnaires. The APL is a global project, although based in Britain.
Players have celebrated Van Persie, Suarez, Marez, Kante, Salah, van Dijk and De Bruyne. The prize itself is cool, although the fresh list of nominees turned out to be “pop”. For example, even within the community of MJ fans there is debate as to whether Ronaldo can be called the hero of the season. Or was he just patching up the holes in a sinking ship, and in parallel outside the field had a devastating effect on the team, because he is not used to playing next to the underdogs. We’ll see what Ten Hague does to MJ, but under Ragnick, not a single player in the squad has earned the title of unequivocal APL hero. There were only those who tried to save the Red Devils’ reputation.
In a week’s time, a record could be set
“Ballon d’Or showed that if you entrust the election of the best player of the season or year to players and coaches, you find that they don’t watch much soccer. But they closely watch the greatest peers, whose level they can never replicate. The result is a series of awards for Ronaldo or Messi. The Association of Professional Footballers is much more adequate – the same Kante was noticed, but there are always plenty of controversial decisions on the way to the prize.
On the other hand, it’s not necessarily a cause for complaint. It’s clear that Son should be on the list of contenders, but it’s unfair to yell that the trio of South Korean, Egyptian and Belgian has a clear favorite, as in the case of Benzema and the Ballon d’Or. One of the beauties of being able to keep history, rather than trying to rewrite it all the time, is that you’re left with a choice. The APL awarded De Bruyne, and journalists gave their prize to Salah. Now there will be a new vote, and we’ll get another winner on June ninth.
There is a high probability that De Bruyne will win – he became champion, scored 15 goals, gave 8 assists, no questions asked of him. In that case Kevin will get the award from his colleagues for the third time in a row. It was not possible for Ronaldo, Henri or Dalglish. Journalists have the same story, only Cristiano and Thierry have only won two years in a row. Looks like the voting will add a new line in the history book.
Discussions about the best players remain relevant, it’s an interesting part of soccer life. When an award in a strong league has been given for 48 years, and in that time no legend has ever won it three times, De Bruyne’s success is sure to be historic. And if Salah wins, he will rank with Kevin, Bale, Ronaldo, Henry, Shearer and Hughes. In journalists, Henri has won three times, but not in a row, and there are no such examples in the history of the award from the APL, because a year ago it was Diaz who won, not De Bruyne.