Ronaldo and Kane but not his son – trying to make sense of the NFL Player of the Year shortlist

In 2009 a Manchester A fan sent an email to PFA CEO Gordon Taylor, asking to know how Brian Giggs could have ended up being shortlisted for Player of the Year.

This was followed by a back and forth, with the Manchester City fan citing the lack of matches started by Giggs, and Taylor responding explaining that this was a completely democratic process, based on the number of votes the players got from their fellow pros.

“I can tell you the situation as it is,” Taylor said. “If you are not happy and consider yourself an expert on the ballot, you might be better off going to Zimbabwe or Russia the next time you have an election and tell everyone how they should vote as they put their vote in the ballot box.”

But let’s not go there. Let’s talk about the PFA Player of the Year shortlist, which is sure to generate a lot of controversy – not least among Manchester City supporters.

The short list is as follows: Kevin De Bruyne (city of Manchester), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Harry King (Tottenham Hotspur), Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United).

Immediate ideas to see? Where on earth is Son Heung Min? where Bernardo Silva And the Rodri? And if these players don’t make the cut, surely Joao CanceloAnd the Trent Alexander Arnold And the Declan rice They are the best candidates of Ronaldo and Kane.

These are just personal opinions and are presented with the assured knowledge that others have the right to drop them and call me ignorant. (you are welcome.)

After all, Beijing ended up scoring 27 goals in all competitions for Spurs this season and Ronaldo was just three goals less than that total in the formidable Manchester United side, scoring 18. Premier League From goals to Kane’s 17. Obviously, there’s an argument to be made for both players.

But the impression, given that shortlist, is that the strength of a player’s profile and status seems to influence these considerations more than they should. And when asked to vote for Player of the Year, professional footballers are asked to choose a legend in the game like Ronaldo more than the collective vote of someone like Rodri or Bernardo, who has their distinction week after week. In the title-winning team he probably overtook them.

This doesn’t just apply to the Men’s Player of the Year award. A more straightforward explanation can be found in the shortlisted PFA Young Player of the Year. ChelseaLauren James was made the six-man shortlist after a campaign in which, due to injury, she was limited to six substitute matches, and played a total of 113 minutes.

Seems to go back to what was said In last year’s article about how players voted for this awards. “To be honest, if it wasn’t for the stats or what you read on social media, I don’t think I or many others would have an idea of ​​how anyone has been in the tournament this season, other than when you play against them,” one of the players said.

The same player of the tournament added last year that when it came to picking the team of the season for their grade, he “would have no clue who the defenders were.” suggest Will Hughes In midfield “but again that’s only because I think he’s a good player.” Above all, he said, “they will be names you can only remember from previous years.”

And perhaps this frank explanation, reflecting a subconscious bias in favor of established, big-name players – and the apparent indifference of those in less glamorous roles – offers some sort of explanation for why the likes of Rodri, Bernardo and Cancelo don’t cut it. .

Salah beat De Bruyne in the Football Writers Association (FWA) award, announced last month, but Rice took third place. 31 different players got votes, nine from Liverpool and six from Manchester City. Like the PFA, the FWA only asks for one name.

When the athlete She held her prize ballot last weekIt was a different voting system, with each journalist and editor naming their top six in order. De Bruyne won it before Salah – and it might be a reasonable bet that the PFA award goes the same way when it was announced on June 9.

The interesting thing about our vote is that Son came third and Cancelo fourth, with the next four places largely between Mane, Rodri, Bernardo and Alexander-Arnold. This was clearly in the top eight, followed by another group including Van Dyck, Foden, Thiago AlcantaraAlison Becker, Declan Rice and Jarrod Bowen.

This seems very reasonable to me. For full disclosure, I went 1) De Bruyne, 2) Salah, 3) Bernardo, 4) Rodri, 5) Van Dyck, 6) Son.

For more disclosure, my team for this season was: Alisson – Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dyck, Cancelo – De Bruyne, Rodri, Thiago – Salah, Jr., Bernardo. And for maximum disclosure, in hindsight, I wish I had gone with Mane instead of Thiago, and dropped Bernardo again in midfield.

Again, we’re talking about personal choices based on our personal ratings, but those preferences seem to reflect not only that Manchester City and Liverpool were in a class of their own in the Premier League, but even site after site, their players were almost unrivaled.

If I make the second eleven, it will include Kyle WalkerAnd Andy Robertson and Foden along with the likes Jose SaAnd the Antonio RudigerRice and Bowen. Manchester City and Liverpool were really on another level, far above everyone else, and they didn’t do it by relying on one or more outstanding players.

This is why this year’s star-studded shortlist – De Bruyne, Van Dijk, Kane, Mane, Salah, Ronaldo – looks a bit disappointing. Including a player scoring 17 or 18 goals in the Premier League can never be considered controversial, but it is certainly questionable when performances on the level of Rodri, Bernardo and Cancelo, let alone Son, are overlooked.

It might be due to what the unnamed player of the tournament said the athlete Last year: Many professional footballers are so focused on their work that they don’t spend much time evaluating the performance of players on other teams, so by default they turn to players whose reputation precedes them.

Kane is more than just a good player. he’s getting close EnglandAll-time scoring record and would go on to be one of the greats of the Premier League era. Ronaldo is one of the greatest players who have ever played this game. But it is not easy to say that either of them were among the six best performing players in the Premier League; At the Spurs’ end-of-season awards show, it was Son who swept the board.

Even while lamenting other people’s choices, I still thought for myself. In the end, it looked like a fluctuation between Salah, who delivered such a charming level in the first half of the season, and De Bruyne, who did the same in the second half. Had I polled Manchester City fans halfway through the campaign, it’s doubtful that De Bruyne would have been in the top four.

The nagging feeling that Salah’s best spell of the season came not when Liverpool had performed relentlessly in recent months but in that autumnal period when he was dropping points that would eventually have kept them painfully short. De Bruyne’s best period of the season came not when Manchester City were winning 12 consecutive Premier League games between early November and mid-January, but in recent months when some of his teammates were toiling and he was, time and time again, the person who – through character and skill. High – drag them through it.

It sounds like a contradiction, but perhaps it says something about the way we perceive individual performance in a team sport. Liverpool were at their best when Salah wasn’t. Manchester City were at their best when De Bruyne wasn’t. When both teams were rocking—and with those two sides, the talk was largely relative—the performance stars really came out on top.

With De Bruyne, with Salah and Mane, with Ronaldo and Kane, there was no shortage of “clutch” moments – players call for inspiration to save their teams in moments when the stakes are higher and the pressure is most intense. Never underestimate the depth of admiration for a player who performs “in the clutch”, especially when it comes to someone like Ronaldo, who has done so at an incredible pace throughout his career.

It can be argued that Ronaldo has carried Manchester United at times this season. Many asked where on earth they would have ended up without him. It’s certainly easy to understand why he, and indeed Kane, are getting votes from their fellow pros.

But more than a son? More than Rodri? More than Bernardo? More than Cancelo, Alexander-Arnold and Rice? It’s intriguing – and the objections are inevitable – but it’s democracy in action. And if that means voting through a fuzzy memory of something you once believed in, so be it.

Within minutes of the ATP announcement on Wednesday night, the resentment surrounding Son’s omission nearly met with protests on behalf of Rodri. But even Manchester City’s Player of the Year award didn’t find space for Rodri in the three-man shortlist. And if neither his club nor his fellow pros give him the credit he deserves in his performance, you wonder who will.

(top image: Getty Images)