PFA Young Player of the Year nominees

An intriguing mix of Premier League newcomers, reigning PFA award holders and former loan stars making a big noise at the very highest level make up the runners and riders for the 2011/12 PFA Young Player of the Year award.

Sergio Aguero

Only two players – Andy Gray and Cristiano Ronaldo – have been named PFA Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year in the same season, but Aguero could add his name to that exclusive list in 2011/12. As a seasoned campaigner who has already made well over 300 career appearances and won 33 caps for his country, it is easy to forget that Aguero is only 23 years old. It is quite scary to think how good he could be in a few years’ time, with it widely acknowledged that a player does not reach his peak until his late 20s. The Argentine hit-man is doing just fine for now, though, and has already become an integral cog in the Manchester City machine. They will consider the sizeable cheque they had to sign to lure him away from Atletico Madrid last summer to be money well spent, with goalscorers of his calibre few and far between.

Gareth Bale

The reigning PFA Player of the Year, Bale’s efforts this season have once again been recognised by his fellow professionals. The jet-heeled Tottenham winger continues to torment Premier League defences and is now considered to be one of the most devastating wide-men in European football. He is still only 22 years of age, yet is already reported to figure prominently on the transfer radars of some of the continent’s biggest clubs. Spurs will not want to part with his services any time soon, though, with the north London outfit determined to ensure that it is they who benefit from his ongoing development. Bale has already matched his goal return from last season in 2011/12 – finding the target 11 times – and has provided eight assists for grateful team-mates in Premier League competition.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Oxlade-Chamberlain’s rapid rise could see him make the step up from League One to the 2012 European Championships in the space of 12 hectic months. The 18-year-old was celebrating promotion out of the third tier with Southampton a year ago, but is now a key part of Arsenal’s plans for the future and is being tipped to book a place on the plane that will be taking the England squad to Ukraine and Poland this summer. It comes as no surprise to see Oxalde-Chamberlain pulling up roots, as he has been in the public eye since making his Saints debut at the age of 16. He was always destined for the top and Arsenal have offered him the perfect platform on which to display his talents. Arsene Wenger eased him into the Gunners fold after acquiring his services for some £12million in 2011, but the teenage forward is now a regular in the Frenchman’s thoughts.

Daniel Sturridge

Another pushing for a place in England’s squad for Euro 2012, Sturridge has underlined his Premier League pedigree in 2011/12. The 22-year-old may have taken the scenic route to the top, but he has shown this season that Chelsea were right to take a gamble on him back in 2009. Manchester City will be cursing the day they allowed Sturridge to slip through their grasp, with a top flight rival now benefitting from his considerable ability. A loan spell at Bolton towards the end of the 2010/11 campaign suggested that Sturridge was ready for a leading role at Stamford Bridge, and he has been offered regular opportunities to prove his worth this term. He has often been deployed in a role on the right wing, rather than down the middle, but he has netted 12 important goals in all competitions, provided seven assists and won the first of what are expected to be many senior England caps.

Kyle Walker

After being snapped up by Tottenham in 2009, Walker must have wondered whether the path to first team football at White Hart Lane would ever open up in front of him. With experienced international stars ahead of him in the Spurs pecking order, it looked like taking something special for him to force his way through. Walker is a special talent, though, and he has been able to do just that. A loan spell at Aston Villa last season allowed him to cut his Premier League teeth and proved to those back at Tottenham that he was the way forward. Harry Redknapp has offered the 21-year-old regular opportunities this term and he has rewarded his manager’s faith with a number of assured displays – which have included a match-winning performance in a derby duel with Arsenal back in October. Walker has also won two England caps and found himself billed as the new Roberto Carlos by the Spanish media following a friendly outing against Spain.

Danny Welbeck

The third man on the list to have shone this season after catching the eye of his parent employers during a loan spell in 2010/11. Welbeck was able to fine-tune his game during a stint at Sunderland last season, and won the first of his four England caps while on the Black Cats’ books. It has, however, always been his intention to make the breakthrough at home-town club Manchester United, and he has burst onto the Old Trafford scene this term. His partnership with Wayne Rooney has blossomed as the season has progressed and could see the pair asked to spearhead England’s quest for Euro 2012 glory – once Rooney has served a suspension. Welbeck is fully deserving of his chance, with a return of 11 goals from 37 appearances this season suggesting that the 21-year-old has come of age.