Champions all: The Premier League honours list

Daniel Storey hands out the end of season awards.

Champions all: The Premier League honours list

Daniel Storey hands out the end of season awards.

Player of the season: Raheem Sterling

Virgil van Dijk made the biggest difference to his club, Liverpool, but Raheem Sterling made the biggest difference to his sport.

In leading the fight against institutionalised racism, Sterling has made himself the spokesperson and poster boy for positive change.

To have done that, whilst establishing himself as the in-form English player and star of Manchester City’s title challenge, is an extraordinary achievement for someone so young.

Sterling’s only responsibility is to be a good footballer. He has gone above and beyond the line of duty, and must be lauded for doing so.

Breakthrough player of the season: Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Before this season, Wan-Bissaka had played only seven league matches in his career.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka gets to the ball before Man City's Leroy Sane
Aaron Wan-Bissaka gets to the ball before Man City's Leroy Sane

Twelve months later, he has established himself as one of the best defensive right-backs in the Premier League and is knocking on the door of the England national team, in its most competitive position.

Crystal Palace will look to keep Wan-Bissaka for at least another year, but he’s already worth more than £40m. Next stop is the summer’s U21 European Championship.

Manager of the season: Jurgen Klopp

The destiny of the title has not yet been determined, but Klopp merits recognition for Liverpool’s extraordinary points total this season.

It is likely that Klopp will lead his team to the fourth-highest points total in English top-flight history, and yet may still miss out on winning a trophy this season.

The expensive signings have made a huge difference, but it is Klopp’s man-management and inspirational coaching that have caused such a significant improvement across the squad.

With the manager only halfway through his typical seven-year management cycle, there are many more reasons to believe that Liverpool will stay put rather than fall away.

Signing of the season: Alisson

Van Dijk’s signing, in January of 2018, was required to add leadership and physical presence to Liverpool’s defence, but Alisson has been the game-changer.

He’s extraordinarily comfortable with the ball at feet, his distribution has been supreme in sparking counter-attacks, and his shot-stopping is everything you would expect from the world’s second-most expensive goalkeeper.

Do not underestimate how difficult it is to hit the ground running in a new team, new league, and new country.

Alisson has made the transition look seamless.

Bargain of the season: Fabian Schar

Honourable mention to Lukasz Fabianski, who was an absolute steal, at £7m, for West Ham.

Schar (Richard Sellers/PA).
Schar (Richard Sellers/PA).

But at half that price, Schar is the ball-playing, header-winning, forward-run-making central defender that Rafa Benitez goes to sleep dreaming about.

The Austrian made the shortlist for the Goal of the Season award, for his strike against Burnley, but it is defensive reliability that has made him such a success at Newcastle.

A transfer fee of £3.5m is Premier League pocket money in 2019. Benitez used it to buy one of the most consistent central defenders of the season.

Individual achievement of the season: Rafa Benitez

Newcastle United can be a wonderful club to manage, but it can also suffocate your goodwill. Mike Ashley’s ownership has pushed supporters to the point of mutiny and beyond.

His continued reign hangs over the stadium like a smog. Benitez is not a perfect manager and has politicised his decision to stay or leave, but his work in keeping Newcastle’s head well above water, with the squad at his disposal, is remarkable.

Newcastle’s ten-most-regular league starters this season cost a combined total of £38m in transfer fees.

Goal of the season: Andros Townsend

A whole host of honourable mentions, including Schar v Burnley, Eden Hazard v West Ham, Andre Schurrle v Burnley, Aaron Ramsey v Fulham, Anthony Knockaert v Crystal Palace, and any number of team goals that Manchester City have scored, but the technique on Townsend’s volley, to combine accuracy and power so sensationally, puts it above all others.

Townsend looked as surprised as his teammates that his speculative shot went into Ederson’s top corner.

Game of the season: Liverpool 5 Arsenal 1

An odd season, in which the best matches involving English teams have taken place in the Champions League: Tottenham v Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain v Manchester United, Manchester City v Tottenham, Liverpool v Barcelona and Ajax v Tottenham were all astonishing.

But in Premier League terms, Liverpool’s post-Christmas humbling of Arsenal stands out.

It was their ninth consecutive league victory, with all five goals scored by their wondrous front three working in perfect unison, after Arsenal had taken the lead. It also sent Klopp’s team ten points clear at the top.

Moment of the season: Vincent Kompany v Leicester City

There is no statue of a former Manchester City player outside the Etihad Stadium, but Vincent Kompany is statue material.

City have signed better players than him, but Kompany acts as the backbone of this club’s progress from cash-rich to trophy rich.

With City struggling to break down a dogged Leicester defence and in desperate need of a winner, Kompany thrashed the ball into the top corner of Kasper Schmeichel’s net. Begin the raw emotion from Kompany, teammates, manager, and supporters.

Quote of the season: Jose Mourinho

This [holds three fingers up]. 3-0, 3-0. Do you know what this is? 3-0. But it also means three Premierships and I won more Premierships alone than the other 19 managers together. Three for me and two for them. Two. So respect man, respect, respect, respect

- Jose Mourinho responds angrily to questions over his performance, and loss of control, at Manchester United. The demands for journalists to give him “respect” would end in December, when Mourinho was sacked and replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox