An individual battle between Mohamed Salah and Kevin De Bruyne will be a mere sub-story on Wednesday when Liverpool host Manchester City in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.
The pair are locked in competition for the Premier League Player of the Season award, with Salah’s plaudits stemming from his prolific first campaign back in England and De Bruyne’s from his unrivalled invention in City’s title charge.
Both have been in stunning form in their respective roles, although the variation in their contributions has left De Bruyne bemused as to how voters can compare them to each other.
“In one way I believe I deserve it, because I have been very consistent in my form,” De Bruyne told the Telegraph.
“You cannot compare – it is impossible. So how do the players choose? Everybody has his own opinion. It depends on what people are looking for in a player.”
“Salah has a remarkable goalscoring run, and he plays very well like an inside forward type of role, for me. This season he has been incredible.”
“To compare us, I don’t know. With the statistics how are we going to compare ourselves? It’s totally different, I played (against Everton) like a defensive midfielder, how you can compare me to an inside forward? I have no idea.”
Praise for Salah’s scoring figures has been fuelled by his starting position on the right of Liverpool’s front three compared to orthodox central strikers in Tottenham’s Harry Kane and City’s Sergio Aguero.
His conviction in front of goal has also served as a striking reflection of his progression since his unproductive spell with Chelsea in 2014.
Not only has he delivered in the Premier League, but he has also flourished on the European stage with seven goals in the Champions League so far this campaign. The fact he cost Liverpool a mere £36.9million reiterates his unimaginable impression on English football.
De Bruyne himself has similarly come back to haunt Jose Mourinho for his lack of faith in him at Chelsea, polishing into one of Europe’s most technically accomplished playmakers.
His execution and vision is rivalled by few in world football, with his ability to have such a glaring impact in a star-studded City side enhancing his Player of the Season prospects.
As the Belgian points out, it’s incredibly difficult to pick between the two. Right now, it’s hard to look beyond Liverpool’s Egyptian King on the basis of his element of surprise.