The Premier League title race is beginning to look like a foregone conclusion and the relegation battle could be the same. If that proves to be the case, attention will soon turn to major individual awards. Last season, Kevin De Bruyne and Virgil van Dijk were among the outstanding candidates for the PFA Player of the Year gong, with the Manchester City midfielder getting the nod despite Liverpool winning their first league title in a generation. Injuries have disrupted the campaigns of both Van Dijk and De Bruyne this time out, though, meaning it is likely to be a raft of new names in the frame for awards. Here are six of the leading contenders for the PFA Player of the Year award in 2021.
6 contenders to be 2021 PFA Player of the YEar
Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City)
City are now looking unstoppable in their attempts to reclaim the title from Liverpool, despite the fact they have been without their undoubted star man De Bruyne for the last few weeks. Stepping up in De Bruyne’s absence, Gundogan is the obvious contender from the likely champions with the 30-year-old having become their most reliable goalscorer of late.
Gundogan’s goals from midfield have allowed Pep Guardiola to use a strikerless formation with various players filling in as a false nine, with the German having netted nine times so far. Though Gundogan missed a penalty in the recent 4-1 win at Anfield, he then struck twice against Liverpool to almost certainly end the Reds’ hopes of retaining the title.
Gundogan has scored the opening goal in five Premier League games this term, helping City to put together an amazing run of form that will very likely result in silverware. If he wins the 2021 PFA Player of the Year award, he may not be Manchester City’s unsung hero much longer.
Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)
Across Manchester, Bruno Fernandes has been busy putting together an outstanding body of work over the past 12 months since his arrival at Manchester United from Portugal.
Fernandes might be deemed a penalty merchant by some but 13 goals in the Premier League this season, coupled with a further nine assists, demonstrates his incredible impact.
While some poor recent results have seen United fall away of late, they would never have been in the title race if it was not for Fernandes. Indeed, there are even reports United are hoping to persuade Fernandes to sign a new contract just a year since he joined the club.
Harry Kane (Tottenham)
Tottenham’s title challenge has also faltered, with bad results creeping in as Harry Kane sat out with another ankle injury, and they are surely too far behind City now. Despite the latest Harry Kane injury updates being positive, the damage has been done.
But the England captain could hardly have done more for Spurs this season, hitting new heights with his form in a superb first half of the season. Kane is the only player in the league so far to reach double figures for both goals and assists, with his understanding with fellow Spurs star Son Heung-min appearing to be telepathic.
It is not inconceivable that Kane could come close to recording both 20 goals and 20 assists in the Premier League, which would make an irresistible case for individual recognition by landing the 2021 PFA Player of the Year award.
Jack Grealish (Aston Villa)
Kane’s England teammate Grealish saved Villa’s skin almost single-handedly last season and this term he has helped Dean Smith’s side push on impressively.
Villa are in contention for European qualification and that is mostly down to the form of Grealish, whose 10 assists in the Premier League have only been surpassed by Kane one clear on 11.
Grealish has been unstoppable at times and it is no longer a case of whether he makes England’s squad for the rearranged Euros, but where he fits in Gareth Southgate’s side.
Tomas Soucek (West Ham)
Another star shining in claret and blue this campaign is Soucek, with his eight goals from midfield pushing West Ham towards the Champions League places. Soucek has been compared to Marouane Fellaini but the Czech appears to have more gears to his game, with Hammers boss David Moyes instead likening the midfielder to Tim Cahill.
A dominant presence, Soucek is also winning fans for his thoughtful comments off the pitch and most people were pleased his undeserved red card against Fulham recently was rescinded. As Soucek himself noted on social media, he has never actually been sent off in his career.
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Liverpool might be struggling to defend their title and have seen their goals dry up in recent weeks but talismanic forward Salah has been just as good as ever.
Out in front as the top scorer in the league, Salah’s 16 strikes have him on track to claim what would be a third Golden Boot since his return to the Premier League from Roma. Liverpool’s season looks like it will be forgettable, yet Salah may yet give Reds fans something to remember the 2020-21 campaign with by landing the 2021 PFA Player of the Season prize.
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