Is it time to alter the PFA Young Player of the Year award?

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Football News

What is the actual purpose of the PFA's Young Player of the Year awards? Is it to reward a player who has had a breakthrough season early in their career?

If so, why have the Professional Footballer Association long decided the criteria that to be nominated for the award, a player must be aged 23 or under at the start of the season?

How do you define young? The concept is fairly subjective.


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Most professional footballers make their professional debut at around 18-years-old and retire at around 34. So it doesn't really make sense to be calling someone 'young' at roughly one-third of the way through their career.

Take one of this year's nominees Philippe Coutinho for example. The Brazilian has played over 250 games during spells at four different clubs and represented his nation on 13 occasions.

Hardly an up-and-coming youngster who might have crept under the radar. There's no doubting his ability and the Liverpool playmaker has certainly scored some fine goals this term - but he's playing in his fourth season in the Premier League.

Fortunately, it seems that an actual young player, Tottenham Hotspur's Dele Alli who turned 20 on Monday, is virtually nailed on to pick up this year's trophy. Alli's career has catapulted skywards at a remarkable rate considering that he was playing in League One with MK Dons just 12 months ago.

The tough-tackling box-to-box midfielder has been sensational all year. His dynamism in the centre of the park has spurred his side on to a top-four finish with still an outside chance usurping Leicester City to the title. Roy Hodgson now seems certain to select Alli in his England squad for the upcoming European Championships in France.

Ross Barkly of Everton seems an odd nomination. Undoubtedly a talented footballer, Barkley has hardly pulled up any trees in a dismal season during which the Toffees have won just four of their 16 home league games.

Based on the PFA's age parameters, Christian Eriksen was eligible for selection yet he was overlooked. The Dane was the architect of Manchester United's downfall in Sunday's 3-0 defeat by Spurs, and he's already racked up an impressive six goals and 11 assists in the Premier League.

The other two nominees are Everton's Romelu Lukaku, who has been in scintillating form so far this season, scoring 18 times in 31 appearances, and Stoke City's goalkeeper Jack Butland, who has registered an impressive 12 clean sheets.

Back in the 2009/10 Premier League season, James Milner won the Young Player of the Year award in his eighth year as a professional footballer. Milner is also the man who somehow accrued 46 caps for the England Under-21 side - 13 more than anyone else its inception in 1976. Bizarre yet strangely unsurprising.

So why not change the rules and make the competition mean what it says? Recognition for a player starting out on his professional journey through the game. What would be the harm in only nominating players aged 21 and under?

Harry Kane is nominated in both the young and senior categories which also seems ridiculous. From an English perspective, however, it is encouraging to see that four of the six nominees are homegrown talent. Perhaps it bodes well for the nation's chances this summer.

Does the PFA Young Player of the Year award need altering? Have YOUR say in the comment section below!

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Tottenham Hotspur
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Philippe Coutinho

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