Should it be Mo Salah over Kevin de Bruyne for Premier League Player of the Year?
Unlike the Premier League title race, the running for the Player of the Year crown is hardly a one-horse race. As the campaign heads into the final hurdle and the votes are cast, Kevin de Bruyne and Mohamed Salah are neck and neck to take the title away from N’Golo Kante.
De Bruyne has been magnificent at the heart of Pep Guardiola’s champions-elect, running the show from a central midfield role with sumptuous display after sumptuous display. Thirty-one games into the season he sits on seven goals and 15 assists, the latter four more than his closest competitor and just five short of Thierry Henry’s record 20 in a single campaign. Without him pulling strings this City side would not have hit the levels they have this season. David Silva, Raheem Sterling, and Leroy Sane, to name but three, have all been excellent too. But KDB is the key.
Salah has been a force of nature since Liverpool signed him from Roma last summer. Fears he would be another Juan Cuadrado have been quickly put to rest. He has 29 league goals to his name. That’s more than Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Edinson Cavani. Nobody in Europe’s top five leagues has come close, although to be fair to Harry Kane, an unfortunate injury put his hold on the PL Golden Boot in jeopardy. The Egyptian leads Europe’s best strikers by some distance, scoring more goals than them, in the world’s toughest league (what?), all while playing in a right-wing role. Impressive, to say the least.
Comparisons between Salah and Lionel Messi have been plentiful. Jurgen Klopp was keen to play down such appraisals but recently conceded it may now be time to make them. And it is because his level has reached that height that Salah should be named Player of the Year ahead of De Bruyne.
The Belgian has been the heartbeat of an excellent Manchester City side, but the award is not for the best player in a team. It is for the best individual. In that regard, Salah is the clear winner. This season he has raised his game to an unprecedented level, a level that only Messi and Ronaldo have operated on for the best part of the last decade. In sheer numbers alone, the 25-year-old has surpassed both. If he continues that form through the World Cup, he will belong on the podium when the next Ballon d'Or is presented.
No one expected Salah to draw comparisons with Barcelona's living legend. Indeed, most were ready to see him flop. Reaching that peak is a stunning achievement. De Bruyne has not come close to matching it. If Salah continues to produce as he has, it will not be long before both Real Madrid and Barcelona come calling. For now, his achievements deserve recognition in England.
If playing at Messi and Ronaldo's level isn't sufficient, his immense goal tally, the fact he’s done it as a winger, and that he’s achieved it all in the face of naysayers, are evidence enough of his worthiness to wear the crown.