In 2011 the decision to name Gareth Bale as the PFA Player of the Year was contentious. Detractors claimed the players who had voted for the Welshman had been swayed by a handful of glorious performances, rather than a period of sustained excellence. If there was some truth in the claim then, honouring the 23-year-old this time around would be thoroughly deserved.
If it transpires, Robin van Persie will have a right to feel unfortunate. This season the Dutchman has already scored 23 goals in 32 games for Manchester United and in the process usurped Wayne Rooney as the club’s most important striker. However, while Van Persie has undeniably had a major impact on the club, it is almost certain Manchester United would be heading into March with a lead at the top of the Premier League table with or without him.
The Dutchman’s goals have contributed an extra 22 points to United, compared to the 15 points Bale’s goals have earned Tottenham. Crucially though, United’s strength in attack means that in the absence of the 29-year-old, Sir Alex Ferguson would have often been able to rely on an alternative source for goals. This is less likely to have been the case at Tottenham, and stripped of Bale’s goals, the club would now be 10th in the table. For this reason, the award is Bale’s to lose.
If he receives the award, Bale will become only the fifth player to win the trophy more than once. It remains to be seen if Tottenham, and the Premier League, can keep hold of him.