Pep Guardiola has reopened a strangely bitter argument from Man City‘s side, insisting that end-of-season awards are “always for Liverpool.”
Jordan Henderson was named the Footballer Writers’ Association’s Footballer of the Year on Friday morning, beating the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Marcus Rashford to the prize.
Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mane, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alisson were all nominated by members of the press, too, but the Liverpool captain was deemed the standout character of 2019/20.
De Bruyne was one of the favourites, having scored 11 and assisted 19 in 34 Premier League games so far this season, but with Henderson lifting the title on Wednesday night, his prize was certainly deserved.
Beyond his efforts on the pitch, which have been exceptional this season, the 30-year-old has also spearheaded a number of charity endeavours, including the #PlayersTogether initiative in support of the NHS.
Guardiola, whose mood appears to have already shifted just over a week on from City’s reprieve from a two-year European ban, reacted to the news is typically bitter fashion.
Understandably backing his players, the Spaniard looked ahead to the PFA Player of the Year award, and insisted “it will be won by a Liverpool player.”
“When we won the Premier League, it was won by a Liverpool player,” he told BBC Radio Manchester.
“When they win the Premier League, I’m pretty sure they are going to win the Player of the Season.
“These awards are always for Liverpool.”
There is a real paranoia to these comments, that seemingly doesn’t translate to a siege mentality within the City squad, who appear more centred on individual accolades than their Reds counterparts.
Henderson’s acceptance speech stressed that “no one individual is responsible for that—it’s a collective effort,” paying tribute to his team-mates for their performances this season.
Guardiola is not the first to flag this supposed bias, with Raheem Sterling claiming in February that City are “not treated with the same respect” as Liverpool.
“It is impossible to win the league four times and none of the players were Player of the Year,” Sterling said, naming Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero as candidates over the years.
“So, this year Liverpool win the league and a Liverpool player will win the Player of the Year for sure.
“We won the league four times and we were not treated with the same respect.”
Of the seasons that City have won the league, Man United‘s Robin van Persie picked up PFA Player of the Year in 2011/12, while Luis Suarez won it in 2013/14, Mohamed Salah in 2017/18 and Virgil van Dijk in 2018/19.
But it cannot be overlooked that on each occasion the player in question produced a genuinely incredible season.
Van Persie, Suarez and Salah all broke the 30-goal mark in the league, while Van Dijk cemented himself as the best defender in the world.
There is no denying the likes of De Bruyne, Toure, Aguero and Sterling himself have been fantastic in those seasons, and in other campaigns too, but to suggest there is a bias towards Liverpool in risible.