Salah v De Bruyne - who should be Player of the Year?

Mohamed Salah Kevin De Bruyne
As two go head-to-head in the Champions League quarter-finals, Goal's club correspondents have done likewise to make the case for their picks

For so long, Kevin De Bruyne's fine performances for run-away leaders Manchester City had made him the hands-down favourite for the Premier League's Player of the Year awards.

The Belgian is enjoying a superb season at the heart of Pep Guardiola's side and if he keeps this up in the coming months and years he could even find himself in with a shot at the Ballon d'Or.

But the case for Mohamed Salah is getting stronger and stronger as the weeks go by. The Egyptian has been a revelation since arriving at Anfield last summer and he seems to be getting better all the time.

The two will be thrust into the same spotlight when Liverpool and City face each other in the Champions League quarter-finals, so our club correspondents have gone head-to-head to make the case for their personal favourites.

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By Neil Jones

OK, so let me begin with a disclaimer: I love Kevin De Bruyne, I think he’s a fantastic player and he would be a deserving winner of any award you care to mention.

But… Mohamed Salah scored his 37th goal of the season at Crystal Palace on Saturday. Thirty-seven goals. We’ve only just reached April! He’s got at least eight more games to play. He could get 50, and I’m only half-joking.

“Goals pay the rent,” David Coleman once said, and Salah has certainly been doing his share since moving to Anfield. Every week sees a new record tumble, a new milestone reached, new ground broken. It’s relentless, mesmeric, barely believable. Liverpool fans suspected he’d be good, better than he ever had the chance to show at Chelsea, but this good?!

He’s doing it in the big games – home and away against Arsenal and Tottenham, strikes against Manchester City and Chelsea, as well as the Merseyside derby – and the small ones too. He’s scoring the tap-ins and the lightning breakaways, as well as the sweet strikes and the Messi-style dribbles.

He bags early – he’s opened the scoring in eight Premier League games so far, as many as Crystal Palace – and he nets late. Eleven of his goals have come in the last 15 minutes of games, crucial goals, big goals, like at Selhurst Park.

He’s all left foot, apparently, but he’s started scoring with his right now, too. You can't stop him. He’s even thrown a header in down at Leicester. Only one of his goals has been a penalty. He plays wide but he is, as Jurgen Klopp stated at the weekend, “a proper striker.” And he’s got nine league assists.

With him, Liverpool have a player at the very top of his game, a player who has laid waste to the theory that the Premier League requires an adaptation period. From the moment he walked smiling through the door at Anfield, Salah has been on it.  

He may end the season empty-handed – though it would be a fool who wrote off Liverpool’s Champions League chances – but if we’re judging a player’s performances over the course of the season, from first week to last, then he has no equal. What a signing, what a player.


Kevin De Bruyne Manchester City

By Sam Lee

Like Neil, I'd like to start by pointing out that I have really enjoyed Salah's performances for this season, and I can completely understand why so many people believe he should be named Player of the Year. The 37 goals and nine assists are one thing, but it is that x-factor, the wonderful finishes, the mesmerising dribbles, that have put him in the conversation with De Bruyne (and Messi and Ronaldo, although I think that's a bit much).

All that said, De Bruyne is the man for me. The Belgian has been excellent for City throughout the campaign, providing just as many wow moments as Salah has. Crucially, he does it in so many different ways.

Put simply he is the most complete player in the Premier League, the driving force behind Pep Guardiola's enthralling City side. 

He has scored crucial and impressive goals in big games - against Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal - and all of those with his 'weaker' left foot. He thrashed in another left-footed cracker at Leicester which was even better, the kind of goal which makes you wonder what had pissed him off so much.

But if his left foot is the sledgehammer, the right is the paintbrush. He could probably trademark his low through-balls from the right-hand side to the back post, but there's no need because no other player on the planet could realistically copy what he does. Through the middle he is just as devastating, picking apart defences with perfectly judged passes which evade everyone but his target.

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He is usually in acres of space thanks to his game intelligence but when he does come up against opponents in tight spaces he can wriggle away from them with a feint or a nut-meg. And if things really get desperate, he's not afraid of getting stuck in.

He can take a hit, too. In fact, the two Crystal Palace players who tried to take him out of the game on New Year's Eve ended up missing the rest of the season themselves.

De Bruyne is the best player in the best team in the country, and there is one thing that sums him up best: whenever Pep Guardiola wants to introduce a new concept on the training ground, or change things up mid-game, it is De Bruyne he calls over to pass on the message. The Belgian understands exactly what's required, he knows exactly how to do it, and he has been doing it all season.