Odds on Jordan Henderson to win PFA Player of Year have shortened in the wake of widespread praise for Liverpool’s captain.
The 29-year-old is now favourite to win the peer-voted award with many bookmakers.
Alan Shearer made a compelling case for his compatriot after the midfielder’s impressive performance against Southampton last weekend.
However, while Henderson deserves considerable praise, Player of the Year would be a step too far.
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PFA Player of the Year is supposed to recognise the best individual, in no stretch of the imagination is that Henderson in 2019/20 (at this stage).
As captain, the Reds’ diligent engine is emblematic of Liverpool.
In a season so convincingly dominated by the league leaders, it’s natural that many would feel obliged to vote for a player who represents the champions elect.
And who represents Liverpool more than the man with the armband?
The campaign for Henderson to win Player of the Year is based on the idea he is a symbol of the team as a whole.
He also benefits from the romantic narrative of a transformation from a player who was widely-maligned to one who has earned sincere credibility.
While this line of thinking is understandable and sweetly romantic, it is not in keeping with the award’s purpose.
Whether anyone is (or should be) bothered about adhering to the true objective is another debate.
There is a history of ignoring cold objectivity in favour of storybook logic.
Ryan Giggs was named PFA Player of the Year in 2008/09 at the age of 35 as the award unofficially morphed into a lifetime achievement award.
The Welshman contributed to Man United’s title retention with two goals and seven assists but there was little belief that his personal campaign was superior to that of Steven Gerrard, Nemanja Vidic or Cristiano Ronaldo.
Giggs was honoured by his peers because they felt he should have won a top individual award during his prime years — it was retrospective action.
Objectively speaking, Henderson’s individual performances in 19/20 have not surpassed those of Kevin De Bruyne, Sadio Mane, Jack Grealish, Adama Traore, Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ricardo Pereira, Sergio Aguero, Jamie Vardy, and possibly several others.
That’s not to say he hasn’t been brilliant, particularly during Fabinho’s time out injured that could have pierced a hole in Liverpool’s midfield were it not for Henderson’s sheer determination.
And his emergence as a talismanic leader and ‘big-game player’ should also be noted.
He will be justly rewarded for his efforts at the end of the season when he becomes the first Liverpool captain in history to lift the Premier League trophy.
But Player of the Year? That wouldn’t be right.
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