Liverpool's Suarez hugs Tottenham Hotspur's Bale after their English Premier League soccer match in Liverpool

Bale vs Suarez vs Van Persie

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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.

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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.

West Ham extend Payet’s contract in “enormous show of faith”

West Ham’s Dimitri Payet celebrates after scoring while soap bubbles are blown during the English Premier League soccer match between West Ham and Newcastle at Boleyn Ground in London, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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West Ham United hope Dimitri Payet is going absolutely nowhere after the club announced on Thursday the 28-year-old Frenchman has signed a contract extension through the summer of 2021.

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Payet’s current contract was scheduled to keep him at the Premier League club through the summer of 2020, but a series of standout performances (6 goals, 4 assists so far this season, mostly during the season’s opening three months) and rumors of interest from “bigger” clubs meant tacking on another year — and plenty more cash — was the best way to keep Payet in east London for the foreseeable future. The club confirmed earlier this week that negotiations over an extension were underway.

“He’s the best player I’ve signed in 25 years,” said West Ham co-owner David Sullivan. “He’s a [$43 million] player. He’s a supreme footballer. He makes every player in our side play better. On his day, he’s world class, he’s unstoppable.”

Payet, who’s been at West Ham just eight months after signing last summer, could still depart in the summer should he finish the current season strong and/or show up and show out at the European Championship, which kicks off in June. In that event, West Ham would now bag a much heftier transfer fee than they would have done prior to the extension.

VIDEO: Dele Alli’s magnificent juggling goal recreated in hand-drawn crayon

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Remember that Dele Alli goal? No, not that one… that one. Of course you remember it. How could you not?

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How often does a player receive the ball out of the air, flick it over his head, spin 180 degrees and hit an inch-perfect volley from 20 yards out to secure all three points for his team? The answer is, of course, not very often.

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Thus, a goal such as Alli’s stunning winner against Crystal Palace last month has been, and will continue to be, immortalized through numerous recreations in this Digital Age. Above is Alli’s goal recreated in hand-drawn crayon.

Watch Live: Guatemala vs. T&T; Canada vs. Guyana in Olympic qualifying

Canadian players wave to fans after a 2-1 loss to England in a quarterfinal of the Women's World Cup soccer tournament, Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP
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Group B is set to kick off Thursday night at the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, as Canada, third-place finishers at the 2012 Olympics, begin their quest to qualify for this summer’s games in Rio de Janeiro.

Guyana versus Trinidad and Tobago is up first (6 p.m. ET) from BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Tex, followed by the Canadians, who will take on Guyana (8:30 p.m. ET) in the nightcap.

[ WATCH LIVE: Guatemala vs. T&T live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

[ WATCH LIVE: Canada vs. Guyana live on line on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The U.S. women’s national began its Olympic qualifying campaign in impressive fashion on Wednesday with a 5-0 victory over Costa Rica, while Mexico jumped to the top of Group A with a 6-0 victory over Puerto Rico.

Sunderland terminate Adam Johnson’s contract after guilty pleas in sex case

Sunderland winger Adam Johnson arrives at Bradford Crown Court, England, Wednesday Feb. 10, 2016. Johnson has pleaded guilty in court to one count of sexual activity with a child and another of grooming. The 28-year-old Johnson, who has made 12 appearances for England, denies two charges of sexual activity with a girl under the age of 16. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE
Peter Byrne/PA via AP
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SUNDERLAND, England (AP) Sunderland has fired winger Adam Johnson after he pleaded guilty to grooming and sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl at the start of his trial.

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Johnson, who has played 12 times for England, continues to deny two further counts of sexual activity with a child.

Sunderland dismissed Johnson ahead of his trial resuming on Friday at Bradford Crown Court.

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In a statement, Sunderland announced Thursday that “in light of Adam Johnson’s guilty pleas, the club has today terminated his contract with immediate effect.”

The former Manchester City player joined Sunderland in 2012 for 10 million pounds (now about $14.5 million).