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De Bruyne or Salah? BBC pundits pick their player of the year

From BBC - April 12, 2018

The six-man shortlist for the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year award will be revealed on Football Focus at 12:00 BST on Saturday.

Voting is over, but who should be on the list, and who will follow Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante by taking the top prize?

It appears there are only two contenders...

Some 17 BBC football pundits - Alan Shearer, Frank Lampard, Danny Murphy, Jermaine Jenas, Rachel Brown-Finnis, Matthew Upson, Leon Osman, Mark Schwarzer, Mark Lawrenson, Danny Mills, Chris Sutton, Kevin Kilbane, Chris Waddle, Alex Scott, Pat Nevin, Dion Dublin and Joleon Lescott have chosen their six outstanding performers of 2017-18.

Twenty players from nine different clubs feature in their shortlist selections - however, only Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah and Manchester City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne are picked as winners.

But which one of them gets the pundits' verdict?

Alan Shearer: Mohamed Salah (Salah 1-0 De Bruyne)

My winner is Mo Salah. I said before the Champions League quarter-finals that I was torn between him and Kevin de Bruyne, and it was the way that Salah played and scored to help Liverpool win both legs which clinched it for me.

Of course, De Bruyne has had a magnificent season for Manchester City too - but what happened in the past week in two of the biggest games for both players has just tipped it in Salah's favour.

Salah did what he had to do, which is score goals to get his team through, so that is why he gets my vote - as well as for being phenomenal every time he has been out on the pitch this season.

His goals-to-games ratio is incredible in every competition, not just the Premier League.

Everything he touches seems to go in the back of the net and he is having one of those seasons where you go out on the pitch not hoping you are going to score, but knowing you will. As a striker, I know that it is a great feeling to have.

The statistics show how important he is to the Liverpool team and he has dragged them to the semi-finals of the Champions League, which is a big factor for me as well.

It looks like it is between Salah and Tottenham's Harry Kane for the golden boot, and Kane is four behind him after successfully appealing to be awarded his goal against Stoke.

I have just tried the exact same thing and applied for another nine goals as well - I wonder if the Premier League will award me the nine I scored, but was not given?

Seriously, though, It just shows how badly Harry wants his third straight golden boot. I do not mind him trying as much as he can to get it, because he is a goal-hungry striker and I would have done the same - if any of my team-mates had let me!

I do think you will get more appeals for goals now, though. I am not sure how often that has happened before, certainly not successfully anyway. I appealed for one against Manchester United once and got turned down.

Kane's team-mate Christian Eriksen is also on my shortlist. He has been a real driving force for Spurs and, as well as all his goals and assists, he has been brilliant all season at linking everything in that team up.

David de Gea also has to be on there. I think he is now the best goalkeeper in the world, and with the season he has had I do not think many people will argue against that.

De Gea made a brilliant and vital save to deny Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero and help Manchester United win the derby, and he has done that time and time again when it matters.

And City midfielder David Silva has to get a mention too. I do not think he always gets the credit he deserves, partly because so many team-mates have also had excellent seasons, but I think if you asked anyone who has played against him, they would say he is a little magician.

Frank Lampard: Kevin de Bruyne (Salah 1-1 De Bruyne)

It is so hard to split De Bruyne and Salah - it could be a joint award this year.

If I have to give one name it would be De Bruyne, because he has been City's best player and so influential for the team who are going to be champions.

But really, it should be split for the first time. For the season he has had, Salah should be given it alongside him, because individually he has been brilliant.

Rachel Brown-Finnis: Mohamed Salah (Salah 2-1 De Bruyne)

Salah was supposedly over-priced when Liverpool paid 36.9m for him last summer but you could triple that fee and no-one would bat an eyelid - not that they would consider selling him now.

I have got two goalkeepers on my shortlist, but both of them have been brilliant.

De Gea has made big saves at big times, and has been amazing for United in what, by their standards, has been a bit of a flat season.

I am a Burnley fan and a former keeper, but the statistics show there is no bias behind me choosing Nick Pope as well.

At the start of the season, most people would have been asking: 'Nick who?' But eight months on he has played a big part in Burnley's unlikely push for Europe and made a big case to be on the plane to the World Cup in Russia with England.

It was a tough choice between Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling, but I like the character Lingard has shown to make himself a key player for United and England when things have not always gone his way.

Jermaine Jenas: Kevin de Bruyne (Salah 2-2 De Bruyne)

As a midfielder myself, my vote goes to De Bruyne because of what he has brought to this City side that is full of stars anyway.

His goals, assists and the way he has driven that team forward all season is what gives him the edge for me.

I actually think Salah will win the award, though, because he has peaked at the right time while voting was taking place and scored some pivotal goals for Liverpool.

Salah has been sensational and has driven his side to where they are now. If he helps them win the Champions League then I would probably change my mind come the end of the season.

Kane also has to be on the list because he has had a brilliant season considering the circumstances, with Tottenham playing at Wembley and how up and down they were at the start.

Aguero has shone too, while Silva has been sensational. I am going to chuck a curveball in, though, and pick Jan Vertonghen.

Vertonghen has always been in the shadow of Toby Alderweireld but he has been a big part of why they have not missed his Belgium team-mate. I think he's had his best season for Spurs since joining the club in 2012.

Chris Sutton: Mohamed Salah (Salah 3-2 De Bruyne)

Nobody expected Salah to make this kind of impact in his first season.

I know he comes in off the wide areas but he is a wide player and the sheer volume of goals he has scored is staggering. When you look at the names he has overtaken in terms of his goal-to-game ratio in the Premier League it is remarkable.

From the teams outside the top six, West Ham's Marko Arnautovic and Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace have stood out for me.

On his day, Zaha is unplayable. He is a defender's nightmare and Palace are not the same team without him. They might get relegated with him, but without him they would certainly be down.

You can see why he is being linked with another move to a bigger club. Things did not work out for him at Manchester United and he will have learned from that - but it could be he feels loved at Palace and wo not want to leave.

It is a similar situation with Arnautovic. People have questioned his temperament but, in a turbulent season for the Hammers he has been a shining light and has turned into the type of talisman they have not had since Dimitri Payet left.

Danny Mills: Kevin de Bruyne (Salah 3-3 De Bruyne)

When Harry Kane had an amazing first season, people asked can he do it for a second year. The answer was yes. It has been the same for his third and fourth seasons, and nobody is questioning him any more.

Mark Schwarzer: Mohamed Salah (Salah 4-3 De Bruyne)

Pat Nevin: Kevin de Bruyne (Salah 4-4 De Bruyne)

Alex Scott: Mohamed Salah (Salah 5-4 De Bruyne)

Matthew Upson: Kevin de Bruyne (Salah 5-5 De Bruyne)

Dion Dublin: Mohamed Salah (Salah 6-5 De Bruyne)

Leon Osman: Kevin de Bruyne (Salah 6-6 De Bruyne)

Mark Lawrenson: Mohamed Salah (Salah 7-6 De Bruyne)

Chris Waddle: Kevin de Bruyne (Salah 7-7 De Bruyne)

Kevin Kilbane: Mohamed Salah (Salah 8-7 De Bruyne)

Joleon Lescott: Kevin de Bruyne (Salah 8-8 De Bruyne)

Danny Murphy: Mohamed Salah (Salah 9-8 De Bruyne)

And the winner is.... Mohamed Salah

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