PFA announce Player of the Year nominees
Gareth Bale, Michael Carrick, Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Luis Suarez and Robin van Persie have been nominated for the 2012-13 Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year award.
PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor has defended the presence of Liverpool striker Suarez on the six-man shortlist for the prestigious award, the winner of which will be announced in London on April 28.
Taylor feels the Uruguayan's on-pitch performances, including 29 goals, for Liverpool this term, make him worthy of inclusion, and he said: "Luis Suarez is helping to restore Liverpool. It is a credit to them that he seems comfortable there and no one could deny he is one of the finest players in the world."
Suarez's main rivals for the award are Tottenham's Bale, who has also been nominated in the Young Player category, and Van Persie, who won it last season before leaving Arsenal for Manchester United.
In a shortlist that includes no defenders or goalkeepers, and no representation from champions Manchester City, the biggest surprise is the absence of Swansea forward Michu, who many believe to be the signing of the season.
Instead, Chelsea duo Mata and Hazard are included, in addition to Manchester United's unsung hero Carrick, who at 31, finally gets his first nomination.
There is no doubt Suarez has been one of the most effective players in the Barclays Premier League this year. However, his reputation has been damaged by the eight-match ban he received for racially abusing Patrice Evra at Anfield last season.
Given his blatant handball also denied Ghana an appearance in the 2010 World Cup semi-finals and the periodic allegations of diving, some would argue he hardly deserves to be acknowledged by his peers.
Taylor said: "Sometimes controversy travels with players. Sometimes it is in their very nature. Sometimes it is that very intensity that causes a problem also makes sure they win."
Taylor, who whilst accepting Suarez will always be a controversial figure, added: "It is very difficult at times. Players are expected to be top role models and set the finest example. That goes with the trade these days. I don't underestimate the need for them to do all they can to be seen as a good example. But they are also human beings."