As this season’s Player of the Year awards approach at the end of this month, it is a straight battle between Tottenham’s Gareth Bale, Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and Manchester United’s Robin Van Persie.
For all the brilliance of Juan Mata, Leighton Baines and Michu, the three offensive stars stand out from the crowd.
But who should win?
Up until Christmas, Van Persie was the main man without any doubt. He had scored an endless amount of goals, with many of them either winners or moments of genius. His run of form and influence on the United team between August and December will turn out to be the reason they win the league. Over the last few months, however, the goals have stopped for the Dutchman, who has now not scored in 10 games. He is far from playing badly, but he has lost the edge that made him so amazing earlier on in the campaign.
Bale’s season has been the opposite of Van Persie’s. He had a solid, if unspectacular, first half of it, but he has been a phenomenon in 2013. Countless times he has picked Spurs up on his own and inspired them to victory, with unstoppable pace and memorable winning goals. The awesome solo goal against Norwich; the long-range strikes against West Brom and West Ham; the crucial finish in the derby against Arsenal. That’s just a few great moments from the flying Welshman this season. His current injury has only helped highlight his importance to the team.
Suarez has been sensational for Liverpool, and he is arguably the most unique, talented player in the Premier League right now. In comparison to Bale and Van Persie he has been the most consistent of the three- leading the scoring rankings with 22- but maybe hasn’t had an incredible spell of form like the other two. Where Liverpool might be without him is frightening, and his skill, work-rate and finishing are a joy to watch. His controversial personality will work against him when the winner of the prestigious award is announced, because it is voted for by their fellow professionals.
It’s certainly a difficult decision to choose between three such great players, and all of them would be worthy winners. For pure consistency and brilliance, however, Suarez should win it, but Bale will be the man who does.
Luke Shaw wants to stay at Manchester United despite not playing a single second since November.
[ MORE: United need Griezmann ]
Shaw, 21, has seen his career stall at Old Trafford since Jose Mourinho arrived in the summer and the English left back has been linked with a move away in the summer.
However his agent, Jonathan Barnett, has spoke to Sky Sports in the UK and moved to quash that speculation, insisting his client is very happy fighting for a place in the first team at United.
“He is happy at the club. Manchester United are very happy with him and he’s very happy at Manchester United,” Barnett said.
Mourinho appeared to call out Shaw and his England colleague Chris Smalling earlier this season after a win at Swansea City, as he questioned the pain threshold of his players and their injuries. Shaw, of course, has returned from a horrific leg break he suffered at the start of the 2015-16 season and he seemed to be getting back to his best when he made himself unavailable for selection in November.
The report stating that Mourinho was wiling to let Shaw leave in the summer perhaps had more to do with these injury issues than his actual quality on the pitch. Shaw broke through in the Premier League at Southampton as a 17-year-old and United paid $35 million for him in the summer of 2014.
Even though Mourinho has placed Marcos Rojo, Matteo Darmian and even Daley Blind out of position at left back ahead of him in recent months, it appears he still has a future at Old Trafford.
That said, one thing is key for Shaw’s future: fitness. If he can get that back then the marauding left back can kick-start his United career and deliver on the promise he showed in his teenage years.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp had something to chew on his way back home from Plymouth on Wednesday.
Actually he had a lot to chew on…
[ MORE: FA Cup replay roundup ]
Klopp was presented with a gift from fourth-tier Plymouth Argyle and their sponsors Ginsters after a much-changed Liverpool beat them 1-0 at Home Park in the FA Cup third round replay.
A giant Cornish pasty.
“What’s that!?” was Klopp’s bemused response when the giant snack (which is stuffed full of potato, meat and vegetables) starting coming his way in his press conference after the game.
In the south west of England pasties are the local delicacy and with Liverpool having to get a bus home over 293 miles on a chilly evening, the pasty had a little message for Klopp on there.
Ah, the magic of the FA Cup.
Fair play to Klopp for accepting the gift magnanimously and for Plymouth for spreading the gospel of the pasty. If you haven’t tried one, do it.
Manchester City have confirmed that new striker Gabriel Jesus is available to play against Tottenham Hotspur this Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).
[ MORE: United need Griezmann ]
Jesus, 19, agreed to move from Palmerias in the summer for $35 million but remained with the Brazilian side for the rest of their season as he was their top scorer en route to them winning the league title.
After a few weeks training at City he is now registered in the squad and ready to feature for Pep Guardiola‘s side to help them claw back from the 10-point gap between themselves and current Premier League leaders Chelsea.
Jesus scored 28 goals in 85 games in all competitions for Palmerias and has shown great promise for the Brazilian national team, scoring four goals in his first six appearances for the Selecao in 2016.
Speaking about his arrival at City, Jesus is looking to hit the ground running.
“I want to win titles and Manchester City is a club that is used to winning,” Jesus said. “City is a Club that always competes for the title in the competitions it enters, so that was an important factor, and because of the manager, Guardiola, and the squad.”
Jesus has arrived at the perfect time to give an ailing City side a boost.
On the back of their 4-0 drubbing at Everton last weekend (City’s worst league defeat since 2008 and Guardiola’s worst-ever in the league as a manager) they need to beat Tottenham this weekend to keep alive any hopes of winning the title. City can’t afford any more slipups and their defensive unit has to improve.
Going forward Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling David Silva and Sergio Aguero have been in good form for most of the season, but adding Jesus will bring competition and Kelechi Iheanacho will also be pushing him all the way for minutes.
Many would like to see Aguero given some help up top and maybe Jesus can start alongside him in the weeks and months to come?
We all saw just how good Jesus can be during the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Now he has all eyes on him as he prepares to make his long-awaited debut against Tottenham.
Kaka is enjoying life in Florida.
The former Ballon d’Or winner is hoping to stay with Orlando City SC beyond the end of his contract, which runs its course after the 2017 season.
[ MORE: Real Madrid now winless in three ]
Kaka has been very good for the Lions, scoring 19 goals and 15 assists in 53 total matches. Reports had said he’s skip town after the third year of the deal, but Kaka refutes that idea.
“A misunderstanding because I am very happy here,” Kaká told reporters at MLS Media Day on Tuesday. “I had a three year contract, so this is the last year under this contract, but my idea is to stay here.
“Of course we never know what can happen at the end of the season or during the season, but my idea for now is to stay in Orlando and stay in the league.”
Kaka turns 35 in April, but has been consistently good even if injuries kept him to 24 MLS contests last season. If he puts forth a similar season, there’s little reason for Orlando — or another team — not to take a chance on Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite.