Despite the fact that they each play very different roles in their different positions in different teams, there are a number of similar attributes they share.
They are all exceptional finishers – their 73 goals in all competitions between them so far is undoubtedly the first and foremost reason one of the trio will be awarded Player of the Year and one of them will win the Golden Boot.
They are each technically outstanding – with the ball at their feet they are the most feared opponents of any defender in the Premier League – their skill and movement on the ball, couple with intelligent movement, runs and positioning off the ball make them almost impossible to mark and virtually unstoppable in the final third.
Robin van Persie has developed over his time at Arsenal and now Manchester United from a wide forward to a deep-lying forward and now an out and out striker.
The Dutchman can drop deep to affect creative build-up play or he can hang off the shoulder of the last defender awaiting a pass to pounce on.
He can turn even the most experienced defenders inside out with his skill and intelligence o the ball and he needs only half a sight of goal to beat even the very best of goalkeepers, whether from open play or with one of his trademark free-kicks.
At 29 years old, Van Persie is at the peak of his powers and is enjoying his best run of form and fitness of his entire career. He has developed into a world-class centre-forward with the deadliest left foot in England.
Luis Suarez is every bit as versatile as the Dutchman – he too has spent time developing on the flanks in his career before moving central. At 26 years of age, he’s really hit his stride this season. He is currently the Premier League’s top scorer and, for me, he deserves all the accolades this term.
He’s tricky and tenacious but, more than Van Persie, he’s unpredictable and in my opinion he works harder. His work-rate off the ball is matched with his intelligence and skill on it – he is heading towards the age where potential develops fully grown into ability.
That is the level Van Persie is at now – he likely won’t get any better – but Suarez is just entering his peak years – these next few seasons for the Uruguayan will be when he really makes his mark on English and world football. Players like Didier Drogba and Dimitar Berbatov enjoyed their best periods of form between the age of 27 and 30 years old. For strikers that is their peak. Suarez is only going to get better and better.
The most important factor is that he remains at Anfield where he has clearly made himself at home. He looks so comfortable at Liverpool and his contract has been renewed until 2018, which means he’d be very difficult and expensive to prize away from the Reds.
Gareth Bale is just 23 years old and he undoubtedly has the brightest future ahead of him of any other footballer in the country.
The Welshman broke in to the Spurs first team fold under Harry Redknapp as a left-back but it soon became all too apparent his talent was better suited to a more attacking role and he was moved to the left wing.
Now he even plays as an attacking midfielder in the hole between the striker and the midfield. In just a few seasons he has become a force of nature for Tottenham, he is undoubtedly their star player.
Bale often gets compared to Cristiano Ronaldo and it’s easy to see why when he drifts in-field off the left flank time and time again to devastating effect. Equally, like his Portuguese counterpart, he can hug the touch line like a more traditional winger and with his pace he can leave pretty much anyone for dead.
Bale certainly has the physical edge over the two formers – he’s faster, stronger, and more mobile. His body is more athletic – he has worked hard to transform himself into a machine.
He has worked hard to develop his craft as well – he must have spent hours and hours on the training ground studying the likes of Ronaldo and Van Persie to perfect his free-kicks, which are now every bit as dangerous as his elders’.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Bale ends up playing as a striker eventually – for me that would be the natural progression.
So who is actually the better player? The best way to judge it may be to ask whether each one of them would perform as well at one of the other teams – for example would Van Persie have performed as well if he wasn’t at United but was at Tottenham or Liverpool instead? I’m not altogether sure he’d be enjoying the same form, if that were the case.
At Arsenal, the team was set up entirely to feed Van Persie, much like Liverpool are set up to feed Suarez. Suarez’s form and Fernando Torres’ complete lack of form at Chelsea demonstrates aptly the difference between a striker who is being fed well and a striker who is malnourished in terms of goal scoring opportunities.
Torres was incredible at Anfield because, like his Uruguayan replacement, the team is designed to provide him with an abundance of chances.
However, I very much doubt either of the two formers would be able to perform at such a high and consistent level as Bale does at Tottenham. He is their only real star player. He is the only player Tottenham currently have on their books that could get into any other team in the world.
Purely on longevity of his career, Van Persie is probably slightly more deserving of being called the better player. However, based on this season, I’d have to say Suarez has been the better individual of the two strikers.
Bale will likely eclipse them both as time goes on. He has the potential to be a better player than either of his elders. He is undoubtedly on his way to becoming one of the best footballers in the world.
What is your verdict?
image: © Viking-