It’s the time of year where we start to see the nominees for end of season awards roll in, and today’s big announcement was the finalists for the PFA Payer of the Year award, a list that included Sadio Mané and frontrunner Virgil van Dijk but that didn’t have room for last year’s winner, Mohamed Salah.
It wasn’t the only awards news today, though, as Trent Alexander-Arnold made the shortlist for the PFA’s Young Player of the Year prize. However, with the young right-back battling a pair of players who also made the Player of the Year list, former Liverpool star Raheem Sterling and his Manchester City teammate Bernardo Silva, the young Liverpool man won’t be frontrunner.
Instead, it is Sterling, second favourite to Van Dijk for the main award, who is expected to win. Which would be well and good except that as of today, Sterling (along with teammate Silva) is 24 years of age and has made more than 300 senior appearances. He’s eligible on account of being 23 at the start of the season, which is the PFA’s cut-off for eligibility.
While Sterling’s season has been worthy of praise, that he will likely take the young player prize seems more than a little, well, wrong. Given that in football terms he’s hardly a young player any more.
Last year, the PFA young player prize was won by a 22-year-old Leroy Sané, and before that Dele Alli won it in back-to-back years at 21 and 20, and Harry Kane won it at 21. In all those cases, the winner started the season aged 21 or younger, and it would be a lot easier to take an award meant to be for the best young player seriously if that was its cut-off rather than the current 23.
This season, though, it appears Alexander-Arnold and fellow actual young player Young Player of the Year nominees David Brooks (21, Bournemouth), Marcus Rashford (21, Manchester United), and Declan Rice (20, West Ham) will have to make do with just being nominated.