The Premier League has kicked off, and all eyes will lie on that coveted league trophy come May 2019. However, the league’s superstars will also have their eye on a personal honour to cap off their year – the PFA Player of the Year. Here, we take a look at who could be the top contenders for the prize come the end of the season.
1. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Mo Salah’s return to English football saw him take it, and the PFA Player of the Year trophy, by storm. With 32 league goals to his name, he broke the goal scoring record for a 38-game season. Despite his record, Liverpool could only manage a 4th place finish, but this season could be a different story following Liverpool summer transfers.
In Premier League outright odds, Liverpool are currently 13/8 to win the league, while Salah is 10/1 to successfully defend his PFA Player of the Year crown.
Even if Salah can’t keep up the goal scoring heights of last season, spearheading Liverpool to their first ever Premier League title could be enough to make Salah the first man since Cristiano Ronaldo to win the highest individual award in England two years consecutively.
5. COMPARED: Mohamed Salah’s single-season record against 15 modern goalscoring greats – https://t.co/qGdj3p4CVp
Matching some of the big guns. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/OvSo5cTLVH
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 2, 2018
While Salah has continued to scythe his way through defences on a consistent basis, he has yet to find those record-breaking scoring boots. With just 3 goals in his first 6 games, Salah appears to be playing in second gear, something that Liverpool fans will hope soon changes.
Despite a sluggish start, Liverpool have a 100% record in the league so far and the Premier League opposition will be wary of Liverpool’s potential to take it up a gear.
2. Sergio Aguero (Man City)
Undoubtedly one of the finest imports to have graced the Premier League in its 26-year history, it is somewhat surprising that Aguero is yet to win the PFA Player of the Year Award.
Despite 147 goals, 9 hat-tricks, 3 Premier League titles, 1 Golden Boot and a starring role in perhaps the all-time greatest singular moment, the most prestigious individual award has eluded the Argentine wizard — and he’ll be gunning to set that right, as he winds down a fine career.
Sergio Aguero has scored his ninth Premier League hat-trick.
Only Alan Shearer has bagged more in the history of the competition (11). 👆 pic.twitter.com/0wrhGomJTw
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 19, 2018
Unfortunately, injuries have regularly taken a toll on Aguero — denying him of a single season which could match the heights of Salah in 2017/18, or Luis Suarez in 2013/14. But it does intrigue a question — what Aguero could do if he manages to remain fit for a whole season — especially in a rollicking vintage Pep Guardiola side, who were streets ahead of the competition last season.
Despite now being 31-years-old, Aguero has shown that he still knows how to hit the back of the net in his sleep — with a sizzling hat-trick against Huddersfield serving as a reminder. With Aguero as the focal point of Manchester City, as the leading goal scorer — if he could last for a full 38 game season, some records might need to be rewritten — one of which could be Aguero’s PFA Player of the Year awards tally. He is currently priced at 9/1, just ahead of Mo Salah.
3. Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Often criticized for breathtaking play but a lack of end product that would put him up there with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar, this could finally be the season where Eden Hazard comes of age and puts himself up there as a genuine Ballon d’Or contender as he enters his prime.
Indeed, despite all the dazzling displays we’ve seen from the Belgian winger, his best goal tally in a season is only 16 – in 2016/17, when even Bournemouth’s Joshua King matched him for goals. His previous PFA Player of the Year award winning effort in 2013/14 was with only 14 goals. However, it seems that Hazard is finally ready to step up his game a notch — with regards to his goalscoring, which will always bode well when he’s competing for an individual award such as the PFA Player of the Year.
70 – Eden Hazard’s goal was his 70th for Chelsea in the Premier League – overtaking Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in third (69); only Frank Lampard (147) and Didier Drogba (104) have scored more for the Blues. Special. pic.twitter.com/ARNDX2xTvm
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 26, 2018
Hazard comes off a blazing summer in Russia with Belgium, where his 3 goals and 2 assists propelled Belgium to their best ever finish in the World Cup, and himself to a Silver Ball — adjudged the second-best player of the competition, only behind Croatia’s Luka Modric.
The 27-year-old has carried his form at club level too — despite only 2 starts in the opening 6 games, Hazard has already notched up 5 goals and 2 assists and currently tops the chart with Fulham’s Mitrovic. His early season form has seen him become the favourite to win the PFA Player of the Year award, with a price of 9/2.
The winds of change at Stamford Bridge will perhaps have been for the best for Hazard, personally, too. Having played for two of the more pragmatic managers of the game, Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte previously, Hazard would perhaps have felt shackled, unable to express the full armory of skills in his repertoire. But Maurizio Sarri’s more attacking system seems like it could bring the best of Hazard, from an output point of view.