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Controversy as Suarez is shortlisted for top award

Apr 19, 2013, 8:26 AM EDT

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England’s players’ union revealed the six-man shortlist for its Player of the Year award today and one of the Premier League’s most talented performers is on it. So far so good, you might think.

Except, we’re referring to Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, scorer of 29 goals this term. Just imagine how poor an already-underwhelming Liverpool side might have looked without him.

Suarez received an eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra last season. And anyone who watched the 2010 World Cup finals will remember that the Uruguay star also rates himself as a goalkeeper. So there is resistance in some quarters to the idea of honoring a man whose behavior in the past has been odious, to say the least.

But is it the job of the Professional Footballers Association’s award organizers to judge a player by his prior character? Or should they just stick to pure performance? The prize is called Player of the Year, after all, not Humanitarian of the Year.

“It is very difficult at times. Players are expected to be top role models and set the finest example. That goes with the trade these days,” PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor told the Press Association.

“I don’t underestimate the need for them to do all they can to be seen as a good example. But they are also human beings. It is not always possible to put old heads on relatively young shoulders. This is a footballing award and Suárez’s footballing ability shines through. It would be naive to think controversy won’t continue to travel with him. But I think his football has maintained his place.”

Here’s the shortlist: Gareth Bale (Tottenham), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Juan Mata (Chelsea), Luis Suarez (Liverpool), Robin van Persie (Manchester United).

The winner will be announced on April 28. Bizarrely, voting takes place far before the season’s end. The award is decided by players, and it’s fair to say Suarez’s dubious personality might count against him, making Bale and Van Persie favorites. The latter recently had a two-month dry spell in front of goal, but many of the ballots would have been cast before that became too noticeable.

Other takeaways: no place for Swansea’s Michu, no goalkeepers, defenders or tough-tackling midfielders, and no representatives from last year’s Premier League champions, Manchester City.

  1. mianfr - Apr 19, 2013 at 10:20 AM

    The Patrice Evra part is inexcusable, but I can’t hold the handball against him. It was the kind of fluky conflict of interest that arises in these do-or-die games where breaking a rule was obviously the better decision. There was also a missed penalty kick after that could have made it a moot point.

    Assuming you make a penalty kick 80% of the time and considering extra time and head to head kicks a coin flip, he gave his time 10% chance of winning ( [1-.8]*0.5 ) instead of a 0% chance, and isn’t the goal of every soccer player to improve your team’s odds at the end of the day?

    • perrinbar - Apr 19, 2013 at 10:51 AM

      Agreed. The real problem there is the rule itself. In a scenario like that, the rule should be you just award the goal and give the red card. Suddenly the incentive is gone.

      • mianfr - Apr 19, 2013 at 12:37 PM

        Absolutely, although these weird inversions of preferences in sporting rules are pretty fun to look at when you come across them (like the Ravens intentionally taking a safety and having their offensive lineman hold in the end zone for the entire play at the very end of the Super Bowl, for example).

    • scoocha - Apr 19, 2013 at 5:17 PM

      You ca definitely hold the handball against him. If soccer would just change the rules making a handball in the goalie’s “crease” an automatic goal, we wouldn’t have to even discuss this.
      The ends justify the means in this case – the ref should have called something against Uruguay in that game and allowed the Ghana player to kick again. 2 wrongs can make a right.
      All that being said, he’s been very consistent all year at scoring…and of course flopping.

  2. dreadpirate82 - Apr 19, 2013 at 12:14 PM

    He may not be the most likable guy in the world, but this list would be a joke if Suarez didn’t make it.

    Carrick is the biggest surprise to me. He’s had a nice season, but I wouldn’t put him in such heady company. My vote for the 6th spot would probably be Fellaini, even though injuries have slowed him a bit lately. He was a monster early. People have been down on him at times, but every time I watch City, the game still seems to revolve around Yaya Toure. Zabaleta has been excellent as well.

    My gripe with Carrick is minor, though. Overall a solid shortlist.

  3. navyeoddavee9 - Apr 19, 2013 at 1:42 PM

    Baines should be on the list

    • dreadpirate82 - Apr 19, 2013 at 1:50 PM

      Absolutely. Can’t believe I forgot him.

  4. dreadpirate82 - Apr 21, 2013 at 12:58 PM

    And the Suarez controversy grows…

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