The Sportsman's Player Of The Year Awards: Virgil Van Dijk Or Raheem Sterling?
The eagerly anticipated Professional Footballers' Association awards take place on Sunday (28 April) at London's Grosvenor House. Six Premier League players are fighting it out for the Player of the Year gong, while a further half-a-dozen are in contention for the Young Player accolade.
Here at The Sportsman we’ve jumped the gun slightly and gathered the thoughts of a selection of our writers, who have picked out a winner for each category.
The results are as follows…
Player of the Year
Sean Raymond: Virgil Van Dijk
The former Southampton player has been nothing short of sensational this season in the heart of the Liverpool defence with his presence and quality the main reason for the huge jump in improvement from the Anfield club. The Dutchman is rightly being described as the best defender in the world and no player has had a bigger impact on a team this season than the 27-year-old man mountain. A no-brainer.
Simon Lillicrap: Virgil Van Dijk
Rock solid at the back Virgil Van Dijk has transformed Liverpool's defence over the past year. The fact the Reds are even in with a sniff of winning the Premier League title this season is remarkable and a lot of that is to do with their defence. 20 goals conceded in 35 games, fewer than any other side. 19 clean sheets over the season, more than any other side. Van Dijk is the calm leader at the back and the Dutchman is fully deserving of this award given how much Liverpool have improved. If City didn't have Raheem Sterling this season they would be a few points worse off. If Liverpool didn't have Van Dijk, they may not even be in the top four.
Jack Porter: Raheem Sterling
The jeers and cynicism of Raheem Sterling’s move from Liverpool in 2015 have long since dissipated. Gone are the calls of ‘mercenary’ and ‘Pound $terling’; ‘Raheem Sterling, he’s top of the league’ rang out gushingly at the Etihad and on the road in the previous season, and though it’s been a far tougher and tighter challenge this year, it’s hard to argue that on his performances alone are worthy of bringing a fourth title to the blue side of Manchester in seven years.
No player in the league this season has looked as deadly and devastating as the young Englishman, who could still emerge as the greatest and most natural talent from these pure shores in the past two decades. Could easily fit in the best teams around the continent, with the best years hopefully still to come.
Jack Kitson: Virgil Van Dijk
Raheem Sterling has again been exceptional, while his Man City teammate Bernardo Silva has been mesmerising at times, especially at the start of the season. However, Virgil Van Dijk is the clear winner for me. The Dutchman has been immense, transforming Liverpool’s previously error-strewn and jittering defence into a solid cohesive wall. His attitude and workrate are spot on, and he tops the pile in numerous statistics. A worthy winner in my opinion, and if successful he’ll be the first defender to triumph since John Terry in 2004/05. I just wish he was still at Saints.
Steve Chambers: Virgil Van Dijk
Defenders have often gone under the radar in these types of awards ceremonies with the goal-scorers usually taking all the plaudits, but Virgil van Dijk's sensational season has catapulted him into the forefront, and the Liverpool central defensive star should cruise to victory. The best player in the league this season, Van Dijk has dominated a host of top Premier League strikers, and if his brilliance continues then he can soon be called one of the best ever players to don a Liverpool shirt.
Harris Simpson: Raheem Sterling
Unquestionably the two stand-out performers of this campaign have been Virgil Van Dijk and Raheem Sterling. Both have performed to such an exceptional standard that it is nothing short of a major disservice to try and distinguish between them. However, ultimately it is a trophies business, and should Man City claim the ultimate prize, then no player can say they have contributed more than City’s number 7.
Perhaps most remarkable is not just Sterling’s electrifying output, but his transformation from social pariah, into an exceptional young role model. The last player to be so villainised by the tabloids was a young David Beckham, and undoubtedly parallels can be drawn between the two.
It is a testament to Sterling’s character that he has been able to reinvent himself in such a way that he now represents much more than just your standard footballer, but as a standout professional and social torchbearer too. This coupled with his tremendous on-field performances means there is no better candidate for player of year.
Chris Knight: Raheem Sterling
It has been wonderful to watch Raheem Sterling steal the limelight, if only to anger the headline makers at the Daily Mail. Sterling has been sensational on and off the pitch, producing match-winning performances on a weekly basis and playing a prominent part in football's battle against racism.
Mark Taylor: Son Heung-Min (not on shortlist)
I know all my colleagues will be saying Virgil Van Dijk - and they’re probably onto something - but I'm going to go for Son Heung-Min of Tottenham Hotspur. Son is not in the running for the award, but he’s a player who always entertains and impresses and he never shirks a task. In a season when Harry Kane has been missing for extended spells with injury, he has stepped up to the plate with huge enthusiasm and effect.
Virgil Van Dijk: 4 votes
Raheem Sterling: 3 votes
Son Heung-Min (not on shortlist): 1 vote
Winner = Virgil Van Dijk
Young Player Of The Year
Sean Raymond: Raheem Sterling
The Man City winger has stepped his game up to another level this season with his output in the final third improving with every passing week under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola. It is nothing short of a disgrace that a 24-year-old qualifies for an award which should focus on players making their way in the game but Sterling isn't to blame for the laughable rules and as such should be the runaway winner of the coveted gong.
Simon Lillicrap: Raheem Sterling
I love Raheem Sterling. His improvement over the past two years has been remarkable and now he is one of the most dangerous attackers in world football. His shooting has improved no end and his 17 Premier League goals this season are testament to that, but his off-the-ball movement makes him a nightmare to deal with for any defender. Off the pitch, his continuous fight against racism and charity work has meant the public opinion of him has completely changed. It's a close run thing between him and Van Dijk for POTY but in the young player category he wins, hands down.
N.B This award should probably just be for under 21s. Sort it out PFA.
Jack Porter: Bernardo Silva
If City to win the domestic treble this year - the first time the feat will have been accomplished - their undying gratitude should be for the Portuguese midfielder, who could legitimately stake a claim as the best purchase of the Pep Guardiola era. No outfield player in the City set-up this season has made more league appearances, with this ‘other Silva’ more than making up for the absence of the injury-blighted Kevin de Bruyne, and continuously running on a seemingly unrelenting Duracell battery regardless of the opponent. A magnetic presence on the pitch.
Jack Kitson: Raheem Sterling
The electric winger has transformed into one of the most scintillating, and now consistently superb, players in the Premier League. His scorching pace, dazzling skills, and vastly-improved finishing has thrust the England superstar into Golden Boot contention, while he needs just the one more assist to hit double figures. The best thing for both club and country is he’s still only 24. If he does bag the accolade he’ll join the likes of Wayne Rooney, Dele Alli, Robbie Fowler, and Ryan Giggs as back-to-back winners.
N.B: I agree with a few of the other contributors. The award should just be for players aged 21 and younger.
Steve Chambers: Bernardo Silva
Pep Guardiola's Manchester City are fighting for the league title and two of his star men, Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva are major contenders for the Young Player of the Year gong. Sterling's goals and assists have catapulted City to the upper echelons of the division, but Silva has been a revelation this season, and having worked his way into Guardiola's starting XI with regularity, the 24-year-old Portuguese sensation just pips his teammate Sterling to this award.
Harris Simpson: David Brooks
While the likes of Bernardo Silva and Trent Alexander-Arnold may have garnered much higher status and attention due to their respective clubs stature, David Brooks has unassumingly gone about his business this season, and the strides he has made since his £10m arrival from Sheffield United have been nothing short of remarkable.
Brooks has been Bournemouth’s main catalyst, and he has already chipped in with an impressive 7 goals from Midfield in a debut campaign which has been so impressive, even the likes of Manchester United have now earmarked the Welshman as a potential recruit.
He is rightly being tipped as the next great Welsh hope, much in the same vein as Gareth Bale when he burst onto the scene at Southampton, and if the composure and precision he has already demonstrated is anything to go by, it is a pressure that is unlikely to faze this prodigious talent.
Chris Knight: Trent Alexander-Arnold
The notion that Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva could be in the running for the 'young player' award when they're 24 is ridiculous. Trent Alexander-Arnold has been superb for Liverpool this term and the 20-year-old gets the nod from us. He has played a key role in Liverpool's push for Champions League and Premier League glory, whereas someone like Marcus Rashford has only impressed in fits and starts. Alexander-Arnold's consistency is what marks him out. Honourable mentions to Declan Rice and David Brooks too.
Mark Taylor: Raheem Sterling
Sterling is a wonderful player but also, perhaps more importantly an impressive man, dealing with some complex issues away from the game with maturity beyond his years. He has blossomed under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and has been superb at international level too.
Raheem Sterling: 4 votes
Bernardo Silva: 2 vote
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 1 vote
David Brooks: 1 vote
Winner = Raheem Sterling