With the end of the campaign in sight, attention is already turning to the Player of the Season nominations in Europe’s top five leagues.
Across the continent, a number of players will be fancying their chances of being named the best player of the 2018/19 campaign.
In La Liga, it appears to be a one-horse race for the Player of the Season gong, while things are much tighter between the contenders in the Premier League, much like the title race itself.
Below, we’ve predicted who will be named the best footballer in each of Europe’s top five leagues come the end of the season by comparing our picks to their main rivals for the award.
Main Contender: Raheem Sterling
Last season felt like a breakthrough year for Raheem Sterling. He had already won numerous awards, most heralding his achievements at a young age – the 2014 Golden Boy and back-to-back Young Player of the Year awards at Liverpool – but Manchester City’s Premier League title win felt like his crowning achievement.
Yet a senior individual award has so far eluded Sterling. This could be the year that changes. With 17 goals and nine assists, Sterling has been directly involved in 26 goals across 30 Premier League appearances so far this term. If City keep up their current form and lift the trophy again, Sterling is bound to better his 18 goals from last season.
Kevin De Bruyne, City’s most influential player in 2017/18, has struggled with injuries and sporadic form this season, allowing Sterling to stand out from the crowd of late. Another title win will surely see the Player of the Season award head to the Etihad this time around
Main Rivals: As for Sterling’s teammates, Sergio Aguero and Bernardo Silva are both nominated but they will find it difficult to earn as many votes as Sterling.
Alternatively, Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk could have a huge say if the Reds hold on to top spot. The Dutchman has emerged as the Premier League’s best defender over the last 12 months and has been instrumental in Liverpool’s title challenge, as has Sadio Mane, who could be a surprise winner.
Meanwhile, Eden Hazard has stood out in an inconsistent Chelsea team and will be eager to finish his Premier League tenure with an award if he is to leave Stamford Bridge this summer.
Main Contender: Lionel Messi
As alluded to above, La Liga’s Player of the Season is far more clear-cut than the Premier League’s battle for individual glory. Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit means Lionel Messi has been head and shoulders above anyone else in Spain.
With an incredible 33 goals and 15 assists in just 30 league appearances, Messi looks on course to be named La Liga’s best player for the ninth time in the last 11 campaigns. And with Barcelona set to retain the title, Messi’s case only becomes stronger – he has once again inspired the Catalan giants to glory.
At 31, Messi is showing no signs of slowing down. His truly incredible numbers are unmatched across Europe and his ability to single-handedly drag Barcelona through tough games remains unparalleled. Even a season-ending injury would not harm his chances of being named Player of the Season at this late stage.
Main Rivals: An unprecedented run of goalscoring form for Luis Suarez, who has bagged 20 league goals this term, is really the only way another player could pip Messi at this stage.
With no Ronaldo to life Madrid onto Messi’s level, Karim Benzema has been the only genuine shining light for the current champions of Europe. But his 21 league goals won’t be enough to see him seriously contend with Messi.
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Main Contender: Marco Reus
Other than the Premier League, the Bundesliga is set for the tightest title run-in in the top five leagues. Just one point currently separate Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund at the top, and so both sides are looking for their standout players to continue engineering victories. For Dortmund, that player is Marco Reus – and he may just be the Bundesliga Player of the Season.
Having struggled with injuries over recent campaigns, Reus has played more league games this term than he managed in 2016/17 or 2017/18. Is it a coincidence, then, that Dortmund are putting up their best title challenge since the glory days of Jurgen Klopp’s reign?
Reus has scored 16 goals and provided 10 assists in his 25 league appearances, including crucial goals against the likes of Bayern and Wolfsburg. The German appears more eager than ever to lead his side to Bundesliga glory for the first time since 2011/12.
Main Rivals: Bayern have gradually overtaken Dortmund, and Robert Lewandowski is leading the charge to beat his former club to the title. He will definitely be a Player of the Season contender if he can continue adding to his 21 goals and 10 assists.
The Bundesliga’s second top scorer, Frankfurt’s 17-goal Luka Jovic, is also a contender. Averaging a goal every 114 minutes, the Serbian – who has now joined the German club permanently from Benfica – shouldn’t be ignored.
Main Contender: Cristiano Ronaldo
It’s all rather predictable, but enthralling nonetheless. Last summer, Cristiano Ronaldo left Spain, where he had developed into one of the game’s greatest ever goalscorers, for Italy. And of course, Ronaldo has taken to life in a new country like a duck to water.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner is fourth in the Serie A scoring charts with 19 goals. He has also provided 11 assists. As expected, Ronaldo jumped at the chance to become the talisman at yet another European superpower following similarly impressive spells with Manchester United and Real Madrid.
As is often the case, his team’s inevitable title win will aid him in the battle for the Player of the Season award. With five games remaining, Ronaldo will be keen to overtake his Serie A goalscoring rivals and top yet another chart.
Main Rivals: Polish striker Krzysztof Piatek has kept up his extraordinary form since signing for AC Milan from Genoa in the January transfer window. He has scored a total of 21 league goals this term, but a lack of assists means he may not come close to Ronaldo.
Another red-hot striker worthy of a mention is Fabio Quagliarella. His achievements – 22 goals and eight assists in 32 league games – stand out all the more because of his age; the 36-year-old would be a popular winner. Atalanta’s Duvan Zapata could also have a say with his 21 goals.
Main Contender: Kylian Mbappe
More astonishing numbers from another astonishing player. Kylian Mbappe, the 20-year-old with the potential to dominate the Ballon d’Or award in the coming years, let alone the Ligue 1 player of the season, has scored 30 goals and provided nine assists in just 27 league appearances this term.
It’s difficult to stand out in a front line that contains Neymar, who so often proves himself to be the best player on any football pitch. But the Brazilian’s injuries this term have given Mbappe a bigger platform on which to shine, and the Frenchman has grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
His four-goal display against Lyon, a very dangerous side, banished suggestions Mbappe is merely prospering in an inferior league. Of course, PSG are far and away the best team in the French top-flight. They won the title with five games to go, but their superiority is in no small part a result of Mbappe’s brilliance. It would certainly be a surprise if any other player was named Ligue 1 Player of the Season.
Main Rivals: Keeping Mbappe on his toes is Lille’s Nicolas Pepe. The Ivory Coast international has scored 19 goals and provided 11 assists in 33 Ligue 1 outings and will almost certainly be on the move this summer.