Pitchside Europe

Not so fast Suarez, Aguero has reopened player of the year debate

If the hype is to be believed, Luis Suarez is certain to walk away with the full collection of individual accolades at the end of the season.

The Liverpool forward has been in sensational form this season, topping the league scoring charts by eight goals – a ridiculous margin when you consider we've barely crossed the halfway point and he missed the opening five matches for his infamous bite on Branislav Ivanovic.

He has single-handedly destroyed sides – bagging 10 goals in a four game spell in December - and catapulted his side into the top four picture.

And yet the Uruguayan has a South American rival to fend off before he can sweep up at the end of season awards: Sergio Aguero.

Before a calf injury scuppered Aguero’s winter, the Argentine was chugging along nicely with a healthy total of goals – including braces in the Manchester derby and demolition of Tottenham.

It was just unfortunate that his spell on the sidelines coincided with Suarez’s red-hot streak, leading to many proclaiming the player of the season race already over.

Aguero needed just 49 seconds to score upon his return, a well-taken strike against Blackburn, and any worries that he would take a while to hit his scintillating best were dispelled with a further goal against Cardiff before a ‘perfect hat-trick’ in the 4-2 FA Cup win over Watford on Saturday – a treble which took his season tally to 25.

Normally a hat-trick against Championship opposition would be little to shout about, especially if City had, as expected, smashed them for six or seven. As it transpired, Aguero dragged his side back into the contest with a deadly right-foot, left-foot, header combination that maintained City’s quest for an improbable quadruple.

Suarez might be leading the race to be crowned the league’s finest player, but to rule out a resurgent Aguero before the end of January would be foolish.

Given the pair's impressive displays, surely it’s time to mention them alongside the big two: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – the pair who have dominated the world football debate for the past five seasons.

Both Messi and Ronaldo can always be found towards the top of the Champions League goal charts. Indeed, Ronaldo leads the way in Europe this season with nine goals; Messi three back despite missing games through injury.

But both are made to look untouchable by their crazy goalscoring records in La Liga, a league devoid of competition - Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona have each dropped points on just four occasions in 2013/14. That’s not the sign of a top league, that’s the sign of a league in which at least half the sides would get relegated if transferred to the Premier League and – in some cases – maybe even the Championship.

The Premier League, by contrast, might be lacking so-called ‘world-class’ stars - the list doesn’t stretch much beyond Aguero, Suarez, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, David Silva, Eden Hazard, Robin van Persie and Mesut Ozil – but pluck any upcoming fixture off the schedule and there’s a good chance the outcome is not immediately predictable.

It’s easy to be dismissive of anyone other than Ronaldo or Messi. Both boast qualities that appeal to the masses: electrifying pace, speculative goals and an ability to pick off weak teams at will. Suarez is closest to this model, perhaps why people have been so quick on the bandwagon this season, but the general consensus is that the La Liga giants cannot be rivalled.

Aguero, while occasionally seen fending off the challenges as he marauds through the middle, is far more suited to the role of predatory striker, lurking around the box and ruthlessly dispatching chances that come his way. He scores goals. Big goals. And lots of them.

However, his clinical nature isn’t as exciting for the YouTube generation as a clip of Ronaldo or Messi tearing past four players before smashing it into the top corner.

Ronaldo has 22 La Liga goals, five assists; Suarez has 22 Premier League goals, five assists. Messi has six Champions League goals; Aguero has six Champions League goals, albeit from more matches. Perhaps it’s time for a reconsideration.

That’s not to say Aguero is better than Messi or Ronaldo, merely that he is not as far behind as you might think. If he can lead Manchester City past Barcelona in the Champions League, keeping alive their quadruple challenge, then that must be enough to reopen the debate on the world’s greatest player.

And if Aguero and Suarez continue in their current vein, then come the next edition of the Ballon d’Or ceremony perhaps the crew at FIFA could actually remember the Premier League exists rather than picking the same tired team consisting largely of Barca and Madrid players.

And even if you don’t think Messi and Ronaldo deserve to be compared to Aguero and Suarez at present, surely you would prefer them to the man currently considered the third best in the world: Franck Ribery.

Ben Snowball - On Twitter: @BenSnowball