With the end of the campaign in sight, attention will be soon be turning to the Player of the Season nominations in Europe’s top five leagues.
Across the continent, a number of players will be fancying their chances of being named the best player of the 2018/19 campaign.
In La Liga, it appears to be a one-horse race for the Player of the Season gong, while things are much tighter between the contenders in the Premier League, much like the title race itself.
Below, we’ve predicted who will be named the best footballer in each of Europe’s top five leagues come the end of the season by comparing our picks to their main rivals for the award.
Main Contender: Raheem Sterling
Last season felt like a breakthrough year for Raheem Sterling. He had already won numerous awards, most heralding his achievements at a young age – the 2014 Golden Boy and back-to-back Young Player of the Year awards at Liverpool – but Manchester City’s Premier League title win felt like his crowning achievement.
Yet a senior individual award has so far eluded Sterling. This could be the year that changes. With 12 goals and 11 assists, Sterling has been directly involved in 23 goals across 24 Premier League appearances so far this term. If City keep up their current form and lift the trophy again, Sterling could close in on his 18 goals and 15 assists from last season.
Kevin De Bruyne, City’s most influential player in 2017/18, has struggled with injuries and sporadic form this season, allowing Sterling to stand out from the crowd of late. Another title win will surely see the Player of the Season award head to the Etihad this time around – and only one of Sterling’s teammates has a realistic chance of challenging the 24-year-old for the honour…
Main Rivals: Indeed, Sergio Aguero has reached similar heights to Sterling this season, scoring 17 goals and providing five assists in 23 league games. Depending on how many more important goals he adds during the run-in, Aguero could pip Sterling as the Premier League’s best player.
Alternatively, Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk could have a huge say if the Reds hold on to top spot. The Dutchman has emerged as the Premier League’s best defender over the last 12 months and has been instrumental in Liverpool’s title challenge.
Main Contender: Lionel Messi
As alluded to above, La Liga’s Player of the Season is far more clear-cut than the Premier League’s battle for individual glory. Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit means Lionel Messi has been head and shoulders above anyone else in Spain.
With an incredible 25 goals and 13 assists in just 23 league appearances, Messi looks on course to be named La Liga’s best player for the ninth time in the last 11 campaigns. And with Barcelona on course to retain the title, Messi’s case only becomes stronger – he is once again set to inspire the Catalan giants, who lead second-placed Atletico Madrid by seven points, to glory.
At 31, Messi is showing no signs of slowing down. His truly incredible numbers are unmatched across Europe – no other player has scored 25 league goals in the top five leagues – and his ability to single-handedly drag Barcelona through tough games remains unparalleled. Only a season-ending injury would harm his chances of being named Player of the Season now.
Main Rivals: An unprecedented run of goalscoring form for Luis Suarez, who has bagged 16 league goals this term, is really the only way another player could pip Messi at this stage.
Otherwise, it would take Antoine Griezmann to inspire a miraculous Atletico comeback in the title race. Diego Simeone’s side won’t give up in their chase of Barcelona but neither of the hypotheses above are likely to happen, especially with Suarez’ incredibly hot and cold form.
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Main Contender: Marco Reus
Other than the Premier League, the Bundesliga is set for the tightest title run-in in the top five leagues. Just three points currently separate Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich at the top, and so both sides are looking for their standout players to continue engineering victories. For Dortmund, that player is Marco Reus – and he may just be the Bundesliga Player of the Season.
Having struggled with injuries over recent campaigns, Reus has played more league games this term than he managed in 2016/17 or 2017/18. Is it a coincidence, then, that Dortmund are putting up their best title challenge since the glory days of Jurgen Klopp’s reign?
Reus has scored 13 goals and provided eight assists in his 19 league appearances, including crucial goals against the likes of Bayern and Wolfsburg. Dortmund have missed the German in recent matches after he was sidelined with an injury, but he’s back now and will be eager to lead his side to Bundesliga glory for the first time since 2011/12.
Main Rivals: Bayern are breathing down the necks of Dortmund, and Robert Lewandowski is leading the charge against his former club. He will definitely be a Player of the Season contender if he can continue adding to his 13 goals and nine assists.
The Bundesliga’s top scorer, Frankfurt’s 15-goal Luka Jovic, is also a contender. Averaging a goal every 94 minutes, the Serbian – who is on loan from Benfica – shouldn’t be ignored.
Main Contender: Cristiano Ronaldo
It’s all rather predictable, but enthralling nonetheless. Last summer, Cristiano Ronaldo left Spain, where he had developed into one of the game’s greatest ever goalscorers, for Italy. And of course, Ronaldo has taken to life in a new country like a duck to water.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner leads the Serie A scoring charts with 19 goals. He has also provided 10 assists, meaning he has been directly involved in 29 of Juventus’ 53 league goals so far this season. As expected, Ronaldo jumped at the chance to become the talisman at yet another European superpower following similarly impressive spells with Manchester United and Real Madrid.
As is often the case, his team’s inevitable title win will aid him in the battle for the Player of the Season award. With 13 games remaining, Ronaldo will be keen to hit the 30-goal mark in his first year in Italy, and nobody would put it past him.
Main Rivals: Polish striker Krzysztof Piatek has kept up his extraordinary form since signing for AC Milan from Genoa in the January transfer window. He has scored a total of 18 league goals this term, but a solitary assist means he won’t come close to Ronaldo.
Another red-hot striker worthy of a mention is Fabio Quagliarella. His achievements – 17 goals and six assists in 24 league games – stand out all the more because of his age; the 36-year-old would be a popular winner.
Main Contender: Kylian Mbappe
More astonishing numbers from another astonishing player. Kylian Mbappe, the 20-year-old with the potential to dominate the Ballon d’Or award in the coming years, let alone the Ligue 1 player of the season, has scored 22 goals and provided eight assists in just 20 league appearances this term.
It’s difficult to stand out in a front line that contains Neymar, who so often proves himself to be the best player on any football pitch. But the Brazilian’s injuries this term have given Mbappe a bigger platform on which to shine, and the Frenchman has grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
His four-goal display against Lyon, a very dangerous side, banished suggestions Mbappe is merely prospering in an inferior league. Of course, PSG are far and away the best team in the French top-flight. They are 17 points clear, but their superiority is in no small part a result of Mbappe’s brilliance. It would certainly be a surprise if any other player was named Ligue 1 Player of the Season.
Main Rivals: PSG’s three-pronged attack wouldn’t be complete without Edinson Cavani, who is enjoying another stellar season in France. The Uruguayan has scored 17 goals in 16 matches, but like Neymar, injuries have curtailed his chance of individual honours.
Keeping PSG’s contenders on their toes is Lille’s Nicolas Pepe. The Ivory Coast international has scored 16 goals and provided 10 assists in 25 Ligue 1 outings and will almost certainly be on the move this summer.