Trevor Steven: One-off Erling Haaland is my Premier League player of the year
Erling Haaland is ungainly but has to be my Premier League player of the year and could score 60 next season, says Trevor Steven.
We saw brilliant performers at many clubs in the Premier League season that just finished and, before getting onto my player of the season, I’d like to give honourable mentions to Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka, Kieran Trippier, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Ilkay Gundogan, Eberechi Eze and William Saliba.
But to make it onto my shortlist they had to have been a revelation in some respect, showing a level of their game that we didn’t know they had and sustaining it for the campaign. That’s why my six are Casemiro, Martin Odegaard, Bernardo Silva, Marcus Rashford, Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland.
When he arrived at Manchester United in August Casemiro was depicted as a star on the wane getting one last big payday, like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but once in the team he quickly established that he could be the main man in their midfield.
Surrounded by Luka Modric and Toni Kroos at Real Madrid, the Brazilian’s qualities weren’t able to stand out. At United, however, he has shown how much he can both defensively and creatively, including by scoring some important goals.
Graceful in everything he does, Odegaard has long been a footballer I admire. His movement is silky and he is up there with De Bruyne for passing in tight spaces, unlocking defences with guile and beautiful execution.
But in his first year as Arsenal captain he showed that he also has great leadership qualities. He has rebuilt his career in north London and the way he inspired this team to their best Premier League season in seven years has been a revelation.
Bernardo Silva is another player in the Odegaard mould and has a special place in my heart perhaps because, like I used to, he plays wide and looks to come inside to assist and score.
His quality, versatility and attitude must be a delight for Pep Guardiola, but this season he stepped up with some massive goals, especially his brace which decided Manchester City’s Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid.
Even better than those three, for me, has been Rashford, who thrived on the extra responsibility following the departure from United of Cristiano Ronaldo to blossom into the player he promised to be a few years ago.
His 17 league goals and 30 in all competitions have answered questions about his finishing but also dragged United back into the Champions League. Rashford went from boy to man this year and set new standards for himself.
We already knew De Bruyne was a world class footballer but what we wanted was more telling contributions in key matches. He delivered that, with his screamer against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu a case in point.
His partnership with Haaland has been prolific bordering on the telepathic and has taken City to the precipice of one of the greatest seasons ever seen in English football.
My player of the season, however, has to be Haaland himself. He has great physicality but it is his mindset that makes him outstanding. The essence of his game is scoring goals and we haven’t seen the likes of his numbers in the modern era.
I say all this even though I find his style hard to love. It isn’t visually pleasing and that giant frame looks ungainly and cumbersome. But he is a total one-off and as long as he gets the ammunition he will score bags of goals.
Haaland has 52 for City this year with two games left, and the crazy thing is that he could probably have scored 15 more. Surrounded by quality at City, he will get 40 again next season but it could even be 60.
He couldn’t have chosen a better move than City, and they couldn’t have signed a better striker. There is no one else like Haaland, the uncontrollable force.
Trevor Steven is a former England footballer who played at two World Cups and two European Championships. @TrevorSteven63.