The annual PFA Awards Ceremony is due to take place over the next month or so and supporters of the beautiful game have been speculating as to who is going to take home the prize of PFA Player of The Year away with them. So far the names thrown into the hat have been Robin Van Persie, because of his impressive first season at Manchester United, Luis Suarez because of his goal scoring exploits this year, Gareth Bale for attempting to guide Spurs to a top four finish with breathtaking performances and Juan Mata as a result of his consistent showings for Chelsea. However the recipient of the Young Player of The Year award will prove to be a tougher challenge for those that are orchestrating the votes.
Up to now there has been no leading candidate to win the prestigious award which has seen the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Michael Owen, Cesc Fabregas and Steven Gerrard in the past. As the modern game has evolved, the younger the game has become, youthful vibrancy in a team has become a welcomed asset in the Premier League.
Here I am going to identify my top five contenders for the award.
1) Christian Benteke – The Aston Villa forward has been a surprising revelation since his arrival at Villa Park. Erasing the fond memories of Darren Bent hitting the back of the net, Benteke has taken it amongst himself to galvanise a youthful Villa side away from the cusp of relegation. One of many Belgians, looking to kick start a Golden Era for the nation, the powerful forward aged at just 21 has also been linked with some of the Premier League’s bigger clubs including Arsenal and Spurs. Whether or not Aston Villa retain their Premier League status is another story but one thing that’s for sure is that Benteke will be a Premier League player regardless of his club’s outcome.
2) Rafael Da Silva – The departure of twin brother Fabio Da Silva albeit on loan gave Rafael a new found sense of freedom and independence to become one of the Premier League’s finest right backs. A player who has always had the potential to succeed the insightful footballing mind of pundit Gary Neville, Rafael, 22, was never shied away from making that inconceivable mistake causing United to drop valuable points. Maybe that famous number 2 jersey worn by his predecessor G-Nev worked as a stimulus for Rafael to finally start delivering some consistent defensive attacking displays as United’s first choice number 2.
3) Matija Nastasic – Maybe Roberto Mancini made a significant error by signing Stevan Savic. But including the Montenegro international in a deal to sign youngster Matija Nastasic from Fiorentina has to go down as one of Mancini’s better signings during his managerial reign in his time at City. Kompany’s injury problems and Lescott’s struggle for consistency has enabled Nastasic to become a mainstay in City’s defence. Blessed with relative pace, tactical astuteness of one so young and the greatest of composure for a centre back, the Serbian alongside Benteke and Michu should go down as one of the revelations of the season. But it just so happens that Nastasic will definitely go down as a strong contender for this award instead.
4) Eden Hazard – When one of world football’s most sought after talents graces football’s most entertaining league it is only expected that we should be enthralled and captivated? Well Eden Hazard has hardly disappointed. Take away that controversial moment when he nearly broke that poor Swansea ball boys ribs, Hazard has dealt the physicality’s of the English game impressively well. We’ve all seen YouTube highlights of Eden Hazard embarrassing defenders in the past with mesmerising dribbles, but seeing it week in, week out is truly a blessing to the Premier League. A player destined to become one of the greater players of his generation, Hazard should be considered as an outright contender for the award.
5) Romelu Lukaku – The third and final member of the youthful Belgian contingency. Lukaku has excelled since his loan switch to the Midlands from Chelsea. Desperate to prove himself as a top class young striker, the Belgian ticks all the boxes for the requirements of an old school Premier League number 9, one that even Alan Shearer could aesthetically appreciate. Big, strong, quick and agile, simply put to say that Lukaku is only 19 is frightening. Lukaku was signed to Chelsea after developing an astonishing reputation of scoring 15 goals in his first full season whilst at Anderlecht at the age of just 16 years old. And has shown more than enough snippets of what is to come whilst playing at the Hawthorns this season.
Reece Ravalier (@ReeceRav)