This week’s Monday Verdict explains why Mo Salah could yet reach even greater heights, discusses Alvaro Morata’s future, Wolves’ promotion and names our Team of the Year.
SALAH CAN CLAIM BALLON D’OR IF HE CAN MAINTAIN CURRENT FORM
What a season Mohamed Salah has had!
After scoring his 30th Premier League (and 40th in total) of the season on Saturday, the Egyptian still has time and games on his hands to elevate his total well into the 50+ bracket. That is quite simply astonishing and probably double Liverpool’s best expectations for the player when they brought him to the Anfield last summer.
And it’s that sort of form and goals glut that can see the former Chelsea man claim the biggest individual accolade of them all: the Ballon d’Or.
Either Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi have won the award every year since 2007, when they were both beaten by AC Milan playmaker Kaka.
And should Liverpool go all the way in the Champions League this season, there is no reason why he can’t break the pair’s long-standing duopoly of the award.
People argue Messi and Ronaldo’s crown is slipping, but while I’d say that’s perhaps inevitable as old father time starts to take its toll, I believe it’s only fair and proper that Salah deserves to be considered alongside them as the world’s best players.
Quite often the Ballon d’Or goes to the leading player of the Champions League winning side – and Liverpool are just three matches from glory and perhaps helping the player claim the biggest individual accolade of them all.
De Bruyne looked a shoo-in for the Player of the Year at Christmas, but the ever-impressive exploits of Salah will probably see him shade him this honour…. and if Champions League glory follows, then expect the Egyptian to secure the Ballon d’Or too.
Not bad for, what (?!), £36.9million…
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TEAMTALK’S PREMIER LEAGUE TEAM OF THE SEASON
With the Premier League’s Player of the Year candidates revealed this weekend, we at TEAMtalk are not about to blow our own trumpets after nailing five of the six nominees six weeks ago.
Editor’s note – it would have been six out of six had Oli Fisher not disobeyed intructions and tried to be different by suggesting Fernandinho as opposed Leroy Sane!)
So without further ado (OK Oli, I’ll admit it, I’m angry you denied us the perfect six!) we’ll see if we can follow that success by bringing you our Team of the Year….
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
This may have been a close battle with Ederson, but De Gea’s nomination for Player of the Year just earns the ever-reliable Spaniard the nod.
Centre-halves: Vincent Kompany, Virgil van Dijk, Harry Maguire
In Kompany and Van Dijk, we’re selecting men here who have probably only featured in half their sides’ respective games.
However, the impact of both cannot be underestimated after their calming influences helped steer their teams to the brink of trophy success.
Alongside them, we plumped for a somewhat surprising pick of Harry Maguire, but we believe their represents reward for the back of a fine season that has seen him linked with £50million moves elsewhere.
Right midfield: Kyle Walker
OK, so while he’s regarded more as a wing-back or right-back, the system City play has often seen Walker pick up the ball in right midfield positions. Anyway, he has the speed of foot and the strength of mind to know when to drop deeper and make our defence a flat four-man one if required.
Centre midfield: David Silva and Fernandinho
It’s a winning combination for City and how could we leave out the league’s most creative central midfielder and the best deep-lying midfielder (and yes, we considered N’Golo Kante among the latter)
Left midfield: Leroy Sane
We’re not biased towards City, but they have dominated the competition this season and Sane has been a major part of that. We’ve truly enjoyed watching him guide by opponents and his silky skills are almost (almost!) Ryan Giggs’ esque…
Fluid front three: Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah and Harry Kane
So we’re not really considering De Bruyne a forward, but he can operate in an attacking role for our team and alongside Salah would be simply dynamite.
Up top is Harry Kane, who has proved himself once again the best English striker since Alan Shearer. Roberto Firmino (who has also been brilliant by the way) would be an unfortunate bench warmer for us….
CHELSEA SHOULD DITCH MORATA WHILE HIS STOCK IS STILL HIGH
Chelsea need to have a really good think over the future of Alvaro Morata this summer after the former Real Madrid striker produced another poor performance in the comeback win at Southampton on Saturday.
A return of 11 Premier League goals in 26 appearances is not the sort of figure Chelsea would have been thinking of when they landed the frontman for £60million from Real last summer.
To put that figure into perspective, journeyman Brighton forward Glenn Murray has scored more league goals than Morata this season.
Chelsea looked much more of threat when Antonio Conte introduced Olivier Giroud for the Spaniard with his side 2-0 down at St Mary’s.
Prior to that Morata had given a pretty easy ride to a Southampton defence that has been letting in goals for fun this season, hardly even getting a sweat on in his 61 minutes on the pitch.
Having spent nine months in England it would appear that the 25-year-old is more suited to the style of football in Spain and Italy.
To that end Chelsea should look to try and cash in on the forward, while he still has a decent reputation in La Liga and Serie A, and try and land a frontman more of the ilk of Diego Costa and Didier Drogba.
The biggest issue this summer, however, will be who is in charge at Stamford Bridge come the start of next season.
Conte’s general demeanor is one of a man who knows he will not still be managing in England next term, so it all depends on who Chelsea will turn to to try and turn them back into Premier League title contenders.
Whoever that man is, Morata should not be the focal point of a Chelsea attack that needs more of a presence from their No. 9 – maybe, just maybe that could come from Giroud long-term.
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CONGRATS TO WOLVES AND THEIR READY-MADE BAND OF PREMIER LEAGUE PLAYERS
And finally, a hearty congratulations to Wolverhampton Wanderers on their promotion to the Premier League.
When the club got into bed with super-agent Jorges Mendes last summer, it was always seen as a calculated risk as to where their spending would take them.
As it goes, they’ve completely blitzed the Championship and can be considered worthy winners of the title, once it’s wrapped up.
As one of the country’s most traditional institutions, their return to the top flight will be welcomed too by many.
The men in gold too will have absolutely nothing to fear either, given their current squad already contains a number of household names who will more than hold their own in the top flight.
Having seen them in close quarters on numerous occasions this season, it’s clear Wolves have assembled a squad already better than half this season’s current Premier League. That’s not a sweeping statement either, given Ruben Neves already has Champions League matches under his belt, while Diego Jota, Helder Costa and Wily Boly all have experience of top-flight Portuguese football to their names.
I'm convinced Ruben Neves doesn't like scoring normal goals. pic.twitter.com/UAtY1uqxWA
— Ezio. (@Naitology) April 15, 2018
And in Nuno Espirito Santo, Wolves also have a manager with great contacts, winning tactics and that temperament that will make for one or two heated exchanges with his counterparts next season.
So while their promotion can be celebrated by their fans, it can also be welcomed by the neutrals, who will see a stronger Premier League for having a thriving Wolves back among it.
James Marshment and Rob McCarthy