Trevor Steven: Why Mohamed Salah deserves PFA Player of the Year award ahead of Kevin De Bruyne – and what next for Manchester City?

 
Trevor Steven
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Manchester City v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg
Salah has scored 40 goals in a sensational debut season with Liverpool (Source: Getty)

Like the debate over the relative merits of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, there is little to choose between Mohamed Salah and Kevin De Bruyne, the two favourites to receive the PFA Player of the Year award on Sunday, and to an extent it is a question of personal preference.

But my vote would go to Salah, whose 40-goal haul is truly amazing for a first season as a Premier League regular and must have surprised not only Liverpool supporters but also manager Jurgen Klopp.

As a neutral, I find the Egypt international fantastic to watch. He has great touch and balance, and a calmness on the ball, especially in the penalty area, that is almost as good as that of Messi himself.

Read more: Harry Kane boosted in race to pip Salah to Golden Boot

From the moment he arrived from Roma last summer he has been superb and he has managed to sustain that level, despite his success raising the burden of expectation on him.

Even though Reds team-mates Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have also enjoyed wonderful seasons, Salah has been head and shoulders above them.

De Bruyne has also been outstanding in helping Manchester City win the title in such style.

Everton v Manchester City - Premier League
De Bruyne has helped Man City to win the Premier League (Source: Getty)

His form has dipped a little following a phenomenal spell earlier in the campaign, however, and the voting can be swayed by who is playing the best at the time of the poll.

In my experience, players vote from the heart and don’t discuss their choice in the dressing room. It is a fairly private matter.

Whoever wins, I’ll be interested to see the breakdown as I think the vote will be split.

Salah’s dramatic improvement has led to questions about whether he can sustain it, but I fully expect him to carry on in this vein and perhaps get better still.

His game is so well suited to the Premier League, where teams press and counter-attack, and the fast football that Liverpool practise is perfect for getting the best out of him.

He and De Bruyne have been spoken about as possible future Ballon d’Or contenders and I think it is feasible.

The Belgian may find it more difficult because he doesn’t score as many goals, and that seems to be a crucial factor in winning these awards, but I can see Salah challenging within two or three years.

Great examples

Whoever wins, the attitudes and characters of the leading candidates make this year’s shortlist a brilliant advertisement for the Premier League.

Neither Salah nor De Bruyne have any arrogance whatsoever, they don’t shout at referees or spend the match rolling around feigning injury, and they play the game in the right fashion.

It is refreshing and sets a perfect example to kids, and the same can also be said of Harry Kane and David Silva, who will probably occupy third and fourth place in the vote.

Incomparable City

City’s confirmation as champions at the weekend has seen them compared to some of the greatest previous title winners, although I think it is difficult to weigh up teams from different generations.

Their legacy will be partly affected by what happens next, and I like that Vincent Kompany has quickly emphasised the importance of lifting the trophy again.

That’s a serial winner’s mentality. City have achieved a power shift in Manchester; they won’t want to let that go.

Read more: Aguero urges City to smash Premier League points record

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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