The controversial Luis Suarez and Tottenham Hotspur’s Gareth Bale lead the nominations for the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) Player of the Year award, which were announced on Friday.
Bale, 23, is the favourite to win the prize for the second time in three seasons but Suarez has enjoyed a fine campaign with Liverpool, scoring a total of 29 goals, while Robin van Persie will hope to win the award for the second year in succession.
The Dutch striker has scored 25 goals since joining Manchester United from Arsenal last summer.
There is no representation from last year’s champions Manchester City, with United’s Michael Carrick and Chelsea duo Juan Mata and Eden Hazard completing the list.
Mata’s fellow Spaniard Michu, of Swansea City, is not named despite proving a revelation since his move to the Liberty Stadium last year.
PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor has defended the presence of Suarez on the list, with the Uruguayan striker’s reputation having been damaged by the eight-match ban he received for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra last season.
He has also run into controversy over a handball that denied Ghana an appearance in the 2010 World Cup semi-finals and periodic allegations of diving.
But Taylor, whilst accepting Suarez will always be a controversial figure, feels his on-pitch performances for Liverpool this term, make him worthy of inclusion.
“Sometimes controversy travels with players,” said Taylor.
“Sometimes it is in their very nature. Sometimes it is that very intensity that causes a problem also makes sure they win.
“Luis Suarez is helping to restore Liverpool. It is a credit to them that he seems comfortable there and no one could deny he is one of the finest players in the world.
“This is a footballing award and Suarez’s footballing ability shines through,” he added.
“It would be naive to think controversy won’t continue to travel with him. But I think his football has maintained his place.”
Bale and Hazard have both also been nominated for the Young Player prize, a category in which they face competition from Christian Benteke, Romelu Lukaku, Danny Welbeck and Jack Wilshere.
Welbeck, Wilshere and Carrick are the only English players nominated in the two categories, underlining the extent to which the Premier League has now become a multi-national competition.
Winners of both awards will be announced on April 28.