Manchester City fans were happy when Leroy Sané made the shortlist for the PFA Young Player of the Year award this week. Sané has been in great form and impressed supporters in recent months. However, there was some surprise amongst supporters when they noticed one big omission from the list; Raheem Sterling’s name was nowhere to be seen.
I don’t want to fall into the trap of just moaning because a favourite player of mine didn’t get nominated. The Young Player category has actually done an excellent job of picking out the fledgling talent in the Premier League that might otherwise be a touch unfashionable. Sunderland’s Jordan Pickford has been recognised for his displays despite being the goalkeeper in a side destined to be relegated long before the last ball of the season is kicked, for example.
That City did get a nomination should do something to appease a section of the Blues’ support that feel their heroes get passed over a little too often. However, it’s hard to look at the shortlist without thinking that, on this occasion, it’s the wrong City player that’s been nominated.
Leroy Sané is a phenomenal talent. Pep Guardiola’s team are significantly better for his presence and there seems little doubt from anybody at the club – whether that be the manager, teammates or the fans – that the German is going to be a major player for the club for years to come. However, once he was introduced around Christmas, he suddenly exploded into form.
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For all that, though, the fact is that Sané was barely getting a kick before January. There was good reason for that – he suffered a bit with niggling injuries and, when he did play in that period, it was clear that he needed some time to adapt to the Premier League. That’s not unreasonable for a 20-year-old – as he was the time – who is moving to a new country and new football culture.
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However, for all the talent he possesses, the PFA awards are based on the season gone-by. On that basis, his teammate who usually lines up on the opposite wing has played all of the campaign and been at least Sané’s equal. Raheem Sterling should have got the nomination ahead of his club colleague.
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Sterling has not just become a key player in the City team – he’s done it against a backdrop of being the pantomime villain everywhere he goes. He was unfairly vilified after England’s poor Euro 2016 campaign last summer and has had to cope with a level of press scrutiny into his life that, in any normal sense, borders in harassment. Despite all that and the battering his confidence took over the summer and, he has become essential to Guardiola’s team.
It’s possible that Sterling didn’t get a nomination because nobody see’s him as a young player anymore. Afterall, he does have over 150 top-flight appearances to his name. But he’s still a young player and deserves the nod.
Individual awards can never be an exact science. They rely on opinions and they depend on the voter’s values. Rewarding individuals with personal awards in a team sport is also counter-productive.
That said, it would have been nice for Sterling to be formally recognised for his outstanding season. But never mind, we know how good he is and so does his manager. That should mean more to him than making any shortlist.