Liverpool have today confirmed the sale of Luis Suarez to Barcelona for a fee said to be £75 million.
The Uruguayan was far from a stranger to controversy, but he also leaves England as the reigning Player of the Year, having scooped the award after another incredible season at Anfield. It proved to be a year in which Suarez reclaimed the support of those who opposed him after the incident with Branislav Ivanonic. During a campaign in which Suarez scored 31 league goals, lit up the league with a host of breathtaking displays and helped Liverpool to within three points of the Premier League title, he very much looked a player fully rehabilitated.
But despite the controversy, the Premier League has, for the second consecutive summer, lost the Player of the Year to Spanish football, and the individual who many claimed would rival Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the world’s best.
It raises the question: who can replace Suarez as the Premier League’s number one after the Uruguayan took that crown from Bale with such stunning ease?
Here’s a rundown of the possible options.
Note: obvious candidates in Robin van Persie and Yaya Toure have been omitted due to their age.
Aaron Ramsey has all the tools to become the best player in English football, with last season very much being the rebirth of a player who experienced such difficulties in his career.
Had it not been for the injury suffered in December, it’s possible Arsenal would have gone on to claim the Premier League title last season.
But this is very much the beginning for Ramsey, who was often the best player on the pitch for Arsenal during the first half of last season, deciding major games with stunning contributions in front of goal.
Following in the footsteps of compatriot Gareth Bale, Ramsey, if injury-free, can fulfil his potential in the coming seasons and become the best all-round midfielder in the league and the poster boy for England’s top flight.
There are plenty of similarities to Sergio Aguero and Luis Suarez that go beyond just their arrivals in English football, separated by around six months. The Argentine is very much Manchester City’s star attacker, despite a wealth of talent throughout the squad.
But Aguero has suffered through injury over the past two seasons and it remains to be seen when we’ll see him navigate an entire season without setbacks.
On form, however, it’s difficult to name many forwards across England and Europe who are better. Aguero can be devastating in front of goal, crafting scoring opportunities out of nothing.
There are other candidates in the Manchester City squad, as well as across the city at United, but Aguero’s age and indisputable world-class abilities make him one of the obvious candidates to take up the position as the Premier League’s absolute best.
Mesut Ozil struggled to convince most outside of Arsenal during his first season in the Premier League. The German international’s talent is obvious, showcases moments of brilliance in his debut season, but Ozil has taken on a lot of flak during his first 12 months, particularly after damaging away defeats.
But if there can be one great criticism of Ozil it’s that his finishing isn’t up to scratch and needs to improve. His demeanour may suggest a player who hasn’t committed and is happy to remove himself from responsibility, though the German has always portrayed an introverted figure. It hasn’t, however, taken anything away from his world-class abilities.
An improved Arsenal squad will also help to bring the best out of the former Real Madrid midfielder, who regularly racked up stunning numbers at the Bernabeu and was a key part of Germany’s annihilation of Brazil in the World Cup semi-final.
Ozil is comfortably one of the world’s best playmakers, with manager Arsene Wenger believing we’re set to see even more from the German next season.
He isn’t far away, and a convincing campaign will set Ozil on the way to becoming one of the undeniable standout names in the Premier League.
We need to see more from Eden Hazard, that much is true. While the Belgian helped to decide many of Chelsea’s games last season, he has been frustratingly inconsistent, tailing off towards the end of the season and failing to turn the Champions League semi-final against Atletico in Chelsea’s favour.
But the talent is clear and Hazard has all the makings to become one of the absolute best in world football. As a teenager he helped secure Lille a surprise French title win, going well into double figures for goals. Since the return of Jose Mourinho to Stamford Bridge, Hazard has been encouraged to become one of the best players in the world and making the most of his talent.
On his day, Hazard is capable of being one of the most exciting players in the Premier League, and there should be plenty of intrigue as to how well he performs in what will be a new-look Chelsea team for next season.
There’s a reason he’s considered the talisman for both his club and country, and having already scooped the Young Player of the Year award in England, Hazard has every right to push on and earn the right to be named the best player in England.
Juan Mata may not be able to get into the starting XI for the Spanish national side – though that will probably change now – but he was back-to-back Player of the Year at Chelsea, helping them to success in the Champions League and Europa League. Now that he’s at Manchester United, we should start to see the very best from Mata under Louis van Gaal.
During his first two seasons at Stamford Bridge, Mata was outstanding, adapting to life in England extremely well and hitting eye-watering numbers in both goals and assists. There’s a reason United were open to spending £37 million on the forward.
But at 26, Mata is arguably just about to enter his peak years. In a setup that will favour attacking football at Old Trafford, we should see the very best of the former Valencia forward. He has age on his side over teammate Robin van Persie, while he doesn’t have anywhere near as many doubters as Wayne Rooney.
Mata has all the makings of a player who could win the race to be considered the Premier League’s best.
It would be wrong to overlook Christian Eriksen as a candidate to become the best in England on the basis of Tottenham’s lack of Champions League football. During his first season in the Premier League, the young Dane established himself as Tottenham’s best player amid the wave of new signings of last summer.
Eriksen is certainly not the best in English football at this time, but he is still only 22 and could replicate the form of Gareth Bale, who shot to stardom and left few in doubt as to his credentials as a world-class superstar.
Eriksen looks set to be the hub of Tottenham’s attacks next season, building on his reputation as one of the most exciting players to come out of Ajax in recent years.
He’s an outside bet, but continuing on this trajectory could see the Danish international become a Premier League superstar in a few short years.