Part Two features players from both sides of Merseyside, along with the two big sides from Manchester. Part of what made this season so great is that these big clubs — along with the North London clubs, Arsenal and Tottenham — finished right next to their derby rivals in the table. Greatest Premier League season, indeed.
Leighton Baines (ENG) – If that season began on January 31st, then Nikica Jelavic would have been the obvious choice, scoring 13 goals since his arrival, while the Toffees went 10-6-3 in all competitions. But the season is of course long and arduous. Typical Everton then, who were awful in the first half of the campaign… except for Leighton Baines. The first name on David Moyes’ team sheet, Baines is everything a manager wants in a full-back. He can race up the wing but still served as a member of one of the league’s stingiest defences. The Scouser is also a superb deliverer of crosses and is a set-piece specialist. If he can stand a month in the Ukraine, then he may actually get onto the pitch under Roy Hodgson.
Clint Dempsey (USA) – Who else could it have been? The Yank has been a revelation since the 2010 World Cup, leading the Cottagers in scoring over the last two seasons by a country mile. This year, Dempsey set the single-season record for Premier League goals in a Fulham shirt. He has taken over from Landon Donovan as the global face of American soccer, and Jurgen Klinsmann will need Dempsey firing on all cylinders as Team USA begins its World Cup-qualifying campaign. Another player who is so good that he may be wearing different club colours, come August.
Jose Enrique (ESP) – To be honest, the Spanish fullback is the best of a bad lot. While King Kenny forked out millions for Andy Carroll, the “other” former Newcastle player was the shining light on an underachieving Anfield side. It is telling that Enrique’s decline coincided with a reversal in Liverpool’s fortunes after the Christmas break. In fairness, he has brought some consistency to a position that seems to have been a black hole for the Merseyside club. As well, he was ever-present in the squad sheet and the Liverpool defence still managed to be one of the league’s best.
David Silva (ESP) – On a team deep with expensive talent, this £30m man has proved to be worth every penny. The league’s ultimate winger, speedy Silva led the league in assists. Kompany may hoist the trophies, and Aguero/Tevez/Balotelli may find the back of the net, but Silva might be the best playmaker in the league. A Spanish midfield of Xavi and Iniesta in the middle, with Silva and Mata on the wings, is a formidable thing indeed.
Wayne Rooney (ENG) - Quite possibly the most frustrating man to ever put on an England jersey (apologies to Paul Gascoigne). The man (still only 26 years old) seems to have an infinite supply of talent. After a season-long post-World Cup hangover, Rooney rebounded in 2011/2012 with an astonishing 34 goals in 42 games for United. That includes 27 in the EPL, where he pushed Van Persie for the scoring title right until the end. In fact, it’s hard to believe he has yet to win the Premier League’s Golden Boot. How frustrating then, for both the players and the fans, that he must sit out what will surely be two critical games for England this summer.
Coming Up: Newcastle United to Sunderland