Yet another incredible football season has reached its conclusion. The beautiful game has not failed to disappoint, providing the fans with some jaw dropping – as well as heartbreaking – moments over the last nine months.
We have witnessed some brilliant one-off individual displays and a few consistent performers. We’ve had breakout players, impressing at a young age and veterans proving that age is just a number.
As part of our end-of-the-season awards for Europe’s top-five leagues, we’re honouring the Player of the Year and Breakthrough Player of the Year (stars aged 23 and under who made significant strides in 2018/19).
Here, we look at the winners from Premier League.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool, 27 years old
It was between Virgil van Dijk and Raheem Sterling for this one. But the colossal impact the former has produced upon arrival at Anfield tips the scale in his favour. Liverpool’s defence required a major overhaul but little did anyone think that the arrival of one Dutchman would change it all. Van Dijk – the captain without the armband – has operated with high efficiency at the heart of Liverpool’s defence. He has averaged just one tackle per game, owing to astute positioning and the tendency to get in front of the attacker and cut out the supply. Van Dijk has also been an immense figure while defending set pieces. The 27-year-old reads and wards off any aerial threat, ensuring goalkeeper Alisson has much less to worry about. The fact that he has not been dribbled past even once despite going up against the likes of players like Sterling, Eden Hazard, Son Heung-min and Bernardo Silva speaks volumes of the season Van Dijk has enjoyed.
Best performance: Clean-sheet at Goodison Park
Among other immense performances, Van Dijk’s masterclass in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park stands out as his best of the season. Performing at the top level in one of the biggest derbies in Europe is not as easy ask and the centre-back responded very well.
What next for Van Dijk?
“One-season wonder” is a rather lazy term thrown around to describe a player who has exceeded expectations in that particular season. The expectations from the most expensive defender ever were certainly high and the fact that Van Dijk still managed to exceed it means that the bar is only set higher now. He will be tasked to replicate or even better his performance from this season and guide Liverpool to their first league title since 1990. The objective remains the same, but the pressure and expectations will only make it harder.
Honourable mentions: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City).
BREAKTHROUGH PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Crystal Palace, 21 years old
Wan-Bissaka has been a revelation at Crystal Palace this season and has managed to turn heads of top English clubs. It’s been just over an year since the 21-year-old made his debut and the rate at which he has matured into a top defender is impressive. With 3.7 tackles per game, the Englishman has emerged as one of the better tacklers. Only Idrissa Gueye and Wilfred Ndidi have better numbers. Wan-Bissaka has also managed to record the highest interceptions per game among full-backs, proving the point that he is a well-rounded defender. Much like players such as Dani Alves and Jordi Alba, Wan-Bisaaka started his career as a winger and the attacking instincts have been kept alive by the youngster. But the stand-out feature of his game has to be his flawless tackling. His high tackles to fouls ratio of 6.33 serves is evidence to the fact that he’s an efficient and clean tackler of the ball. Wan-Bissaka has been consistent this season and a move to a top English club is very much on the cards.
Best performance: Assist+clean-sheet against Fulham
Wan-Bissaka ensured that Crystal Palace got off the mark on the first game of the season, with an assist and a complete performance in defence in their 2-0 win over Fulham.
What next for Wan-Bissaka?
Although Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson is desperate to keep Wan-Bissaka at the club, he did admit that any offer for the right-back will be assessed like any other. This means that it’s extremely likely he will be plying trades for one of the big six next season. The two Manchester clubs have emerged as possible suitors but it will ultimately come to the youngster’s best judgement. Regardless of where he moves, the price-tag is bound to be hefty.
Honourable mentions: Declan Rice (West Ham), James Maddison (Leicester City)
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