Both have been in sensational form this season and quite rightly so the favourites among the six-man shortlist which includes De Bruyne’s teammates David Silva and Leroy Sane, who are celebrating a Premier League triumph, as well as Spurs marksman Harry Kane and Manchester United shot-stopper David de Gea.
Understandably the announcement raised a few eyebrows with some commenting on notable omissions. It’s been another season in which so many have performed at a credible level that some were going to be left out.
So, we got thinking, who has been aggrieved? Here are five names that could have easily been nominated and would have been more than deserving.
Club: Tottenham Hotspur
Premier League games: 32
To manager Mauricio Pochettino he is the “brain” of Tottenham Hotspur, the player who makes everyone around him understand the game better, and that’s an apt description of Christian Eriksen who continues to get better and better with each passing season.
Eriksen, who almost single-handedly sent his native Denmark to this summer’s World Cup, is today among the finest playmakers in world football and he’s backing up this newfound reputation through his productivity whether that be goals scored (10) or chances created (79) – both of which puts him third and four respectively among the Premier League’s midfielders.
Key stat: Eriksen has created more chances (79) than any other Spurs player in the Premier League.
Club: Manchester City
Premier League games: 30
Everything Manchester City has achieved this season would have been impossible without Fernandinho, that’s not my opinion, but Pep Guardiola’s.
There’s an argument that he’s the newly elected Premier League champions’ most important player, and that’s primarily due to how much emphasis his manager puts on the defensive midfielder position; we saw that at Barcelona with Sergio Busquets and then at Bayern Munich with Xabi Alonso.
Fernandinho has been masterful operating as City’s deep-lying playmaker, in terms of retaining and recycling possession, he is essentially the kernel around which the rest of the side’s panache can be constructed and there are very few around who do his job better than him.
Key stat: Fernandinho averages 92.7 passes per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season.
Premier League games: 33
If there’s one quality Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp admires from his forward-thinking players, it’s graft. Given the high-octane football he prefers to adopt, there’s pressure on those nearest the opposition goal to become the Reds first line of defence, Roberto Firmino (who Klopp previously said is “pretty much” world-class every day) is one such individual who has embraced those added responsibilities, but not at the expense of his primary role.
Operating as Liverpool’s ‘false nine’ – sandwiched between Mohamed Salah, the favourite to be named Player of the Year, and Sadio Mane – he’s been a menace in front of goal as well as being a chief provider of goals.
Key stat: Roberto Firmino is the only player in the Premier League to create 50+ chances (53) and win 60+ tackles (62) so far this season.
Club: Manchester City
Premier League games: 29
No player has improved more under Guardiola since he arrived at City than Raheem Sterling, who is now starting to fulfil the talents everyone knew he possessed.
His continual evolution from being wayward to becoming consistently efficient under the Spanish tactician is showing no signs of letting up. As far as Guardiola is concerned Sterling can become one of the best, what is preventing him from being in such company is how clinical he is in front of goal, although he’s somewhat become a scoring machine the last few weeks has shown there’s more to come.
And if Sterling does end up where Guardiola feel he’s destined to be then the England international can look back on the 2017/18 season as being the springboard.
Key stat: Sterling has scored more Premier League goals this season (17) than the last two combined (13).
Club: Crystal Palace
Premier League games: 25
It never happened for him at Manchester United when he famously became the last player Sir Alex Ferguson signed, but there’s no question Wilfried Zaha is arguably a much better player than the one who initially left boyhood club Crystal Palace for Old Trafford in 2013.
The last 18 months have seen the Ivorian become the Eagles’ fulcrum; everything positive they do goes through him. Roy Hodgson, his manager, believes there’s a Messi-esque talent to Zaha which is his ability to run with the ball and cause their opposition problems.
As things are he will ultimately be the difference between Palace playing Premier League football next season and suffering the ignominy of relegation.
Key stat: Crystal Palace have lost every game in which Zaha has not played this season (0/9).