Stats Zone Premier League Young Player of the Season 2013/14
Before we begin, some housekeeping. When we say 'young', we mean a player 21 or under at the start of the season – so before you go chuntering, Chelsea fans, that means no Hazard for this award...
Raheem Sterling (Liverpool)
He started the season aiming to hold down a regular place in Liverpool's first team, and ended it among the 23 names for England's World Cup squad. Suffice to say, this has been an exceptional campaign for Raheem Sterling.
The 19-year-old played a key role in the Reds' title charge, prompting manager Brendan Rodgers to describe his wing wonder as "the best young player in Europe" at the season's tail end. The hyperbole didn't go unnoticed, but the comments came after Liverpool's crucial (back then, at least) 3-2 win over Norwich in which Sterling scored twice and assisted the other for Luis Suarez. "I don't see anyone better," beamed Rodgers. "His overal performances have shown so much maturity."
The sentiments were ultimately fair. Sterling has come a long way since his patchy form of last season, in which he burst onto the scene with a string of excellent displays before fading to the point that he played just 43 minutes in Liverpool's last 15 games of the season.
There was no such drop-off this season – just ask Roy Hodgson, who'll be just as happy as anyone that England get another youngster in form for Brazil this summer. The Three Lions boss started the youngster against Denmark in March's friendly, and saw the precocious teenager pick up the game's Man of the Match prize. You wouldn't bet against him starting at least one of England's group games either.
Where our Stats Zone Young Player of the Season award is concerned, Sterling was the youngest player in the Premier League to have been involved in more than eight goals last season (14 – nine goals, five assists). Despite Suarez and Daniel Sturridge racking up 52 goals between them, he wasn't a mere afterthought – indeed, the 19-year-old was an integral cog in the Reds' devastating front three. Of the players available for this prize, he completed the most take-ons of anyone (92).
Sterling was exceptional in the aforementioned win over Norwich at Carrow Road in April. The England man had a hand in all three goals (two goals, one assist) and created another two chances for his team-mates.
In this fiercely fought category, a number of other players made their cases heard. Ross Barkley also earned himself a place on the plane for England after his magnificent season with Everton (six goals, 80 take-ons behind Sterling); Romelu Lukaku bundled in 15 goals for the Toffees and won 91 aerial duels (behind only Cardiff's Steven Caulker on 142); Christian Eriksen was superb in a Tottenham side otherwise, creating 60 chances and eight assists (both highs), while Luke Shaw did enough to impress Hodgson (61 tackles won, behind only Bacuna on 71; 32 chances created, the most for a defender in this age section).
And the other winners are...
Stats Zone Premier League Full-Back of the Year
Stats Zone Premier League Centre-Back of the Year
Stats Zone Premier League Central Midfielder of the Year
Stats Zone Premier League Attacking Midfielder of the Year
Stats Zone Premier League Striker of the Year
Stats Zone Premier League Player of the Year
Stats Zone Premier League Team of the Year