You can look back at the majority of seasons during the Premier League era and pick out Liverpool’s obvious star man each time.
Philippe Coutinho has deservedly taken home the award in the last two years, but for all his dazzling wizardry, competition wasn’t exactly stiff on either occasion.
The 2013/14 campaign saw several leading candidates, but the genius and influence of Luis Suarez was on another planet, seeing him not only named Liverpool’s Player of the Year, but also the PFA and Football Writers’.
Steven Gerrard carried the Reds almost single-handedly during spells of his peak years, and it has been no surprise to see him triumph on four separate occasions.
This season it is very different, however, with some superb performers but not one pulling clear of the pack. For now, it is Mane who is the man to beat come May 9.
The Main Mane
The opening 20 minutes or so against Spurs showed exactly why Mane has been such a magnificent signing, with the Senegal international bordering on unplayable.
It is incredible to think that there was such a mixed reaction to him joining from Southampton last June, with the more high-profile Mario Gotze the marquee buy that many were hoping for.
From day one, Mane has looked the part, and his stunning solo effort at Arsenal on the opening weekend remains a strong contender for Liverpool’s best goal in 2016/17.
The 24-year-old has netted 11 times in 22 Premier League appearances for Liverpool, making him their current top scorer this season, with every strike coming in the English top flight.
For a wide player to be averaging a goal every two league games, in his first season at a huge club, is a great achievement.
You only have to look at how Liverpool floundered in January to realise how vital Mane is to Jurgen Klopp‘s side—he is possibly the first name on the team-sheet now.
No other player possesses his blistering pace, and his finishing ability and general composure in key areas sets him apart from many players of his ilk, where decision-making can be poor.
Klopp has always been a huge admirer of the speedy forward—he once tried to sign from Salzburg during his Borussia Dortmund days—and bringing him to Liverpool is proving to be a masterstroke.
Given the subjective nature of football, there may be plenty of you out there who feel Mane is not currently leading the way.
Several of his team-mates are certainly in the mix.
Coutinho was in the form of his career prior to injury in November, and it is just a shame that he has struggled to hit those heights since.
The Brazilian was arguably the Premier League‘s best player in the first three months of the season, with fans, pundits and fellow professionals lauding his performances.
On his day, Coutinho is Liverpool’s best player, and if he can find his top level between now and May, don’t bet against him winning for a third year running.
Adam Lallana has enjoyed a wonderful season, and the progress he has made in the last two years is one of the greatest transformations in recent Reds’ history.
The 28-year-old has gone from a waste of money to England’s best player, and barring a rather quiet 2017 so far, he has thrived in a central midfield role.
Seven goals and seven assists in the league is a very impressive return, but the way in which he has led Liverpool’s pressing game has been equally eye-catching.
Speaking of teamwork, few are more integral to this team than Roberto Firmino.
The Brazilian is a master at harrying opponents and winning back possession, and his effortless class on the ball has made him a crowd favourite.
He may not always earn the plaudits of Mane, Coutinho and Lallana, due mainly to his footballing style being more subtle, but he is every bit as influential.
It has been a superb second season at Anfield for Firmino, and only when shunted out to the left-hand side have his performances dipped.
His finishing is his only slight weak point, but he leads magnificently from the front.
Completing the top five is Jordan Henderson, who has arguably been Liverpool’s most consistent performer in 2016/17.
Many tipped the captain to be nothing more than a squad player this season, but he has shone in a deep-lying midfield berth.
Technically, he has proven to be far superior than many give him credit for, and his energy, leadership and intelligence have also come to the fore.
Barring a woeful showing at Burnley in August, it is hard to think of a single game when Henderson was genuinely poor, and at 26, his peak years are on the horizon.
Not Done & Dusted
There are still three months and 13 matches remaining in 2016/17, and the battle to be Player of the Year remains a very open contest.
At least three or four names can lay claim to being the frontrunner at some point during the campaign, and the star man could keep fluctuating between now and May.
With the squad in La Manga for a mini winter break, players should return refreshed and fully fit for the trip to Leicester City on February 27, which is very encouraging.
With a healthy set of players to choose from, Klopp should ensure Liverpool hit their pre-Christmas heights in the next three months, with key men back to their very best.
That will make the tussle for Player of the Year even more intriguing, as the Merseysiders aim to secure a top-four finish.
Mane is the favourite as things stand, following one of the best first seasons on Merseyside in many years, but Coutinho, Lallana, Firmino and Henderson are not far behind.
Who is your Player of the Year currently? Let us know in the comments section.
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