When looking back at the 2019-20 Premier League campaign, very few things surprised me.
In fact, apart from Manchester City’s decision not to replace Vincent Kompany – the best centre back in the Premier League for a decade – and Watford’s reckless act in employing and then sacking four managers, the only other surprise was when Jordan Henderson was named Football Writers Player of the Year.
This is in no way said to diminish the efforts of the Liverpool captain who played a major part in guiding the red half of Merseyside to their first top-flight title for 30 years.
In fact, he arguably enjoyed his best ever season as a professional as his team ran away with the crown, while off the pitch he helped raise money for the NHS as part of the Players Together initiative.
However, with the utmost respect intended, is he really the top player in the country this season? Is he indeed in the top five?
No way, according to this observer.
His club teammates Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane, Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne, and Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford made up the top five in the FWA award and three of them alone are probably more deserving of the accolade.
So here, SBOBET picks the three players who over the course of the campaign deserved that award.
Kevin de Bruyne – Manchester City
There is no doubt the Belgian needs to be winning league titles and the Champions League on a regular basis. Granted, the opportunity still exists this season to lift the most coveted prize in Europe.
He has been first-class and above anyone else on his day this term during which he became the second player to provide 20 assists in a single Premier League campaign after Thierry Henry in 2002-03. The praise doesn’t come much higher.
Furthermore, his record of 13 goals and 20 assists in 35 Premier League games, added to his phenomenal passing range, vision and accuracy, probably makes him the best midfielder in the world on current form.
Jamie Vardy – Leicester City
After the incredible feat of winning the Premier League with Leicester City four years ago, Vardy could easily have followed the routes of N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez out of the club for bigger things, but he stayed loyal to the Foxes.
This was the season in which he scored his 100th Premier League goal and some Premier League 2020 highlights, 206 games after becoming the first £1-M signing from a non-league club when he joined Leicester in 2012.
Of the 29 players to become Premier League centurions, only Ian Wright (28 years, 286 days) made his debut in the competition at an older age than Vardy (27 years, 232 days).
Vardy staying at the King Power Stadium illustrates that the grass is not always greener and the so-called big move is not always the necessary route to success.
At 33, he has now become the oldest player to win the Premier League Golden Boot, finishing a goal clear of Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Southampton striker Danny Ings. It is a deserved recognition of his talent and loyalty to a club where he will always have legendary status.
Sadio Mane – Liverpool
In my mind, Mane has been the most consistent of Liverpool’s frontmen this term.
His goals were indeed worth 18 points and it was big a factor to Liverpool’s Premier League 2020 odds of winning it all this season.
Only Daniel Sturridge in 2013-14 (20) has earned more points for the club with his goals in a single campaign.
The Senegal star is also a classy operator off the field as he is on it as shown by a £41,000 donation in March to help fight coronavirus in his home country.
His agent revealed that Mane decided to make the donation spontaneously when he saw the evolution of the situation.
As Sane maintained his position as one of the league’s top performers for the juggernaut from the red half of Merseyside, he must pinch himself as he reflects on the journey that has taken the native of Bambali – a village on the banks of the Casamance river to the king’s throne of African football.
He deserves his place in my top three.
Honourable mentions go to a host of others incidentally, led by Rashford and Ings at Southampton — whose goals kept his team going during some distinctly underwhelming times — and Liverpool full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold and the majestic van Dijk who has now taken the mantle from Kompany as best defender in the top flight.
Who would you pick?
It will certainly be interesting to see who wins the PFA Award chosen by fellow professionals.
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