PFA Player of the Year - Kevin de Bruyne or Mohamed Salah? BBC pundits' verdict

By Chris BevanBBC Sport
Match of the Day

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)

Shearer's shortlist
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)
Harry Kane (Tottenham)Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)
David de Gea (Man Utd)David Silva (Man City)

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.

Mohamed Salah has a goals-per-game ratio of 0.94 in the Premier League this season
Salah has scored 39 goals in 44 appearances for Liverpool this season. In the Premier League, he has 29 goals in 31 matches, a ratio of 0.94 goals per game. In the Premier League era, only Harry Kane has a better strike rate in a single season, with 29 goals from 30 games last season (0.97).

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.

Mohamed Salah's goals and assists have earned Liverpool 15 points this season
Mohamed Salah's goals and assists have earned Liverpool 15 points this season - more than any other Premier League player. With 29 goals and nine assists, he has been involved in 51% of his side's 75 league goals, again more than any other player.

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 wasn't given?

Seriously, though, It just shows how badly Harry wants his third straight golden boot. I don't 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.

Snapshot of Premier League top scorers 2017-18: 1st Mohamed Salah with 29, 2nd Harry Kane with 25, 3rd Sergio Aguero with 21 and joint 4th Raheem Sterling and Jamie Vardy with 16

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 don't think many people will argue against that.

Man Utd goalkeeper David de Gea
De Gea has kept 16 clean sheets in 32 Premier League games, the most in the top flight. He also has the highest save percentage, stopping 80% of shots faced, which ranks third in Europe's top five leagues (England, France, Italy, Germany and Spain).

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 don't 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)

Lampard's shortlist
Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Harry Kane (Tottenham)Sergio Aguero (Man City)
Fernandinho (Man City)David Silva (Man City)

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

Manchester City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne
Kevin de Bruyne has made more assists (15) and created more chances (102) than any other player in the Premier League this season

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)

Brown-Finnis' shortlist
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)
Harry Kane (Tottenham)Jesse Lingard (Man Utd)
Nick Pope (Burnley)David de Gea (Man Utd)

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.

Burnley keeper Nick Pope
Nick Pope has the second-best save percentage in the Premier League this season, behind Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea. He is ranked fifth in that statistic in Europe's big five leagues.

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)

Jenas' shortlist
Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Harry Kane (Tottenham)Sergio Aguero (Man City)
Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham)David Silva (Man City)

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.

Snapshot of players to have created most Premier League chances 2017-18. Kevin de Bruyne in 1st with 102, Mesut Ozil 2nd with 84, Cesc Fabregas 3rd with 79, Christian Eriksen in 4th with 78 and Pascal Gross 5th with 74

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)

Sutton's shortlist
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)
Harry Kane (Tottenham)Ederson (Man City)
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)Marko Arnautovic (West Ham)

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.

Crystal Palace with and without Wilfried Zaha
Palace have played nine league games without Zaha in 2017-18 and lost all of them, scoring only three goals. With him in the team, they have won seven, drawn 10 and lost seven of 24 league games, scoring 30 goals.

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 won't 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)

Mills' shortlist
Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Harry Kane (Tottenham)David Silva (Man City)
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)Raheem Sterling (Man City)

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.

Kane has been out injured and missed some games but his goalscoring his absolutely incredible.

Tottenham striker Harry Kane
Kane has scored 25 league goals this season, breaking the 20-goal barrier for a fourth successive campaign. Only three other players have managed that feat in the Premier League era - Alan Shearer (1993-94 to 1996-97), Thierry Henry (2001-02 to 2005-06) and Sergio Aguero (2014-15 to 2017-18)

I threw Christian Eriksen in there because, like David Silva for City, he makes Spurs tick.

De Bruyne gets my vote though. When you watch City every week you see how he has controlled games and the way they play, box to box.

It is great watching goals and highlights but you have to see a player like De Bruyne live to appreciate how good he really is.

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

Schwarzer's shortlist
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)
Harry Kane (Tottenham)David Silva (Man City)
David de Gea (Man Utd)Son Heung-min (Tottenham)

Son Heung-min deserves some recognition because he has not just stepped up when Kane has been injured, he has also performed really well alongside him.

Salah or De Bruyne? I don't think you can look beyond Salah because everything he does seems to result in a goal, whether he scores it or creates it.

He has shocked everyone, including himself probably. The level he has reached this season has surpassed everyone's expectations.

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

Nevin's shortlist
Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)David Silva (Man City)
David de Gea (Man Utd)N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)

Salah has had a season from heaven and if it was a competition for most improved player or biggest surprise, he would win both of them as well.

I would not complain if De Bruyne won it, though. Maybe the past few weeks he has come down from a 10/10 every week to a 9.5 - but he has been ridiculously good.

Harry Kane is an honest person - Pochettino

I know it is terribly unfair for me to leave Kane out, but I have to make room for N'Golo Kante.

Having watched the vast majority of Kante's games this season, I think he has been at the same level as when he won this award last year. If I was outside the Premier League and looking to buy players, he might actually be top of my list.

So I am afraid I will take the wrath as I usually do from various fans for putting a Chelsea player in there because in actual fact, tough luck - the guy is unbelievable.

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

Scott's shortlist
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)
Harry Kane (Tottenham)Raheem Sterling (Man City)
David de Gea (Man Utd)Sergio Aguero (Man City

Aguero is still as impressive as ever and became City's record scorer this season, while finally we are seeing a manager like Pep Guardiola push Raheem Sterling and allow him to fulfil his potential.

With goals and assists, Sterling has had the best season of his career statistically and credit to him for the work he has put into his game.

Raheem Sterling
Sterling has scored 16 Premier League goals and made eight assists this season - beating his previous best totals of nine goals from 2013-14 and seven assists from 2014-15. His combined goals and assists in both of those seasons was 14.

De Bruyne is one of those players you always want to play with and have in your team - those eye of a needle passes that split three players at a time are absolutely sublime.

A couple of months ago he would have been my first choice but Salah just keeps breaking record after record this season. This was a player who did not make it at Chelsea and people doubted he would make an impact at Liverpool. He has to be at the top of my list.

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

Upson's shortlist
Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Harry Kane (Tottenham)David Silva (Man City)
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)Leroy Sane (Man City)

Salah is a high energy and very direct player, who is having a season where he is playing out of his skin but, for sheer class, De Bruyne gets my vote. I just love watching him play with his energy and the way he drives forward with the ball.

Leroy Sane has to be in there, although the award he has the best chance of winning is Young Player of the Year. He and Sterling both qualify and Sane would get my vote.

Virgil van Dijk would have been a contender if he had played like he has been for Liverpool all season - but while he was at Southampton he missed too many games.

I would love to pick someone from Burnley but I think their strength is that they are such a great team unit. All their players have performed at a really high level, which is a huge compliment, but it is just hard to pick one of them individually.

Sean Dyche 'realistic' about Burnley's European qualification hopes

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

Dublin's shortlist
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)
Harry Kane (Tottenham)David de Gea (Man Utd)
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)Son Heung-min (Tottenham)

To do what Salah has done in his first season at Liverpool is incredible. He has scored so many goals but he is also unselfish - he will always pick the best option even if that means he doesn't score but the team does.

De Bruyne would take the title if it were down to choice of pass and weight of pass. The thing that makes him different is that a lot of players think about the passes he plays, but are not brave enough to make them.

Eriksen is a total footballer with the gift of playing what I would call off-beat football. He doesn't pass it when you expect him to pass it. He goes control, wait, wait, wait, wait, pass - and then someone is through on goal. He is very good at choosing the right pass to the right player and I've never seen him take a bad set-piece.

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

Osman's shortlist
Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Harry Kane (Tottenham)David Silva (Man City)
Mousa Dembele (Tottenham)Son Heung-min (Tottenham)

If Liverpool go on to win the Champions League, inspired by Salah, then that would obviously change things.

But at the minute it is De Bruyne for me because City are about to win the Premier League and he has as good as led them to that already.

Premier League snapshot - top of table: Manchester City in 1st, Manchester United 2nd, Liverpool 3rd, Tottenham 4th, Chelsea in 5th and Arsenal 6th

I also like Mousa Dembele at Spurs. There are not many players of his ilk at the moment and it would be fantastic if he was English - a ball-playing central midfielder who is big and physical and can put the yards in. Unfortunately he's not!

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

Lawrenson's shortlist
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)
Harry Kane (Tottenham)David de Gea (Man Utd)
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)Raheem Sterling (Man City)

Zaha has been Mr Crystal Palace - he has been like a one-man team and every time they play well, he is the man.

It says a lot about Manchester United's season that their goalkeeper is their best player. United striker Romelu Lukaku has actually done quite well in his first season at Old Trafford, but he is not in the top six for the season.

Snapshot of players to have created most Premier League assists 2017-18. Kevin de Bruyne in 1st with 15, Leroy Sane 2nd with 12, David Silva 3rd with 11, Dele Alli in 4th with 10 and Mohamed Sala 5th with nine
Three City players have made the most PL assists this season

Salah wins it - there is no bias, it is just because he just keeps on producing in every game. The thing is, he has had the chances to score more goals, easy ones too.

The Liverpool fans who have been to all the games tell me he could have had more like 45 goals this season if he had taken those.

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

Waddle's shortlist
Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Harry Kane (Tottenham)David Silva (Man City)
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)

Lukaku deserves a mention because he has scored goals, which he was bought to do, but he does not make my six because he gives possession away to cheaply at times. Roberto Firmino at Liverpool is a much more intelligent player.

As for the winner, De Bruyne edges it for me. I have always thought these awards should go to the entertainers because that is the hardest part of the game, and whoever wins it out of Salah and De Bruyne will be a good choice for football.

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

Kilbane's shortlist
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)
Harry Kane (Tottenham)David Silva (Man City)
David de Gea (Man Utd)Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)

Whenever De Bruyne has had an off game by his own standards, then Silva has stepped up and those two have been key to the season City have had.

Different players will have different criteria for who gets their vote - some current top-flight players I have spoken to in the past have have given it to the player who played the best against them, while when I had a vote I would have made my decision based on the games I watched too.

Voting now, I would go with Salah. A month ago it would have been De Bruyne and it is going to be so close. It would be fitting if this season they split the awards - one gets players' player and one gets the football writers' one - because they both deserve recognition.

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

Lescott's shortlist
Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford)Fernandinho (Man City)
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)Raheem Sterling (Man City)

It is hard to choose but De Bruyne pips Salah because he has helped City win the league. If Salah had helped Liverpool win the title, like Riyad Mahrez did with his goals and assists for Leicester in 2015-16, then I would pick him.

I was looking for players who have done more than I have expected for my shortlist - Lukaku has scored a lot of goals but, like Kane and Aguero, I expected him to do that.

I have seen quite a bit of Watford midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure and have been really impressed, especially because the Hornets have had a difficult season. You can see why some bigger clubs might come in for him in the the summer.

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

Murphy's shortlist
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)
Harry Kane (Tottenham)Raheem Sterling (Man City)
David de Gea (Man Utd)David Silva (Man City)

It is incredible that Salah has achieved so much and could be the difference between Liverpool winning the Champions League or not - that is how important he is to them.

His finish in the second leg of the quarter-final was just incredible and there have been so many moments like that throughout the season.

To actually be talking about anyone other than a City player this season shows you how amazing he has been, and he has not let up.

As the season has gone on he has got even better and you have to factor in that he has done that despite Liverpool losing Philippe Coutinho, who was so pivotal to their creativity, to Barcelona. Salah has actually taken on more responsibility since then.

And the winner is.... Mohamed Salah

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah
Will the Premier League players agree with our pundits though? Find out when the winner is announced at the PFA awards on Sunday, 22 April


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