Bruno Fernandes' 2021 verdict on best Premier League players and how it has aged

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Kevin De Bruyne was among the big names included on Bruno Fernandes
Kevin De Bruyne was among the big names included on Bruno Fernandes' 2021 list (Image: Getty Images)

A year and a half can be a long time in football, and some of Bruno Fernandes' comments about his fellow Premier League stars have aged better than others over that period.

At the tail end of the 2020-21 season - his first full campaign in the Premier League - the Manchester United midfielder was called upon to name the players who had impressed him the most in the competition. Fernandes included some predictable names as well as a few curveballs, and Mirror Football has taken the time to look back at his selections.

Fernandes was part of the United team which finished second behind Manchester City in 2020-21 before falling to a sixth-place finish last term. While he praised his Old Trafford team-mates, the list, which he gave during a Q&A with fans, focused on rivals who had impressed him the most.

"I think it's difficult to choose one," Fernandes said. "For me, being the best player in the Premier League, you have to be the best from since we started to the end, and not coming and start playing in December or January and start doing well in that moment.

"The ones who were doing well before everyone forgets because those are doing better at this moment. I think to be the best player, you have to be consistent, try to be the best that you can for the longest time you can. Honestly, it's difficult to choose one player to be the best."

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When pushed, however, he opted for Kevin De Bruyne after the Belgian's exploits for Manchester City. "I think we can say this season, for me, as everyone knows Kevin De Bruyne is one of the best for me," the former Sporting Lisbon midfielder explained.

More than a year on, De Bruyne remains one of the Premier League's most gifted players. He helped City retain their Premier League title last season and leads the way for assists in this year's competition with nine - three clear of his closest challenger.

How well have Bruno Fernandes' picks stood up? Have your say in the comments section!

Bruno Fernandes' 2021 verdict on best Premier League players and how it has agedMohamed Salah was one of the big names on Bruno Fernandes' list (Getty Images)

His next two picks were similarly straightforward. Fernandes continued: "If we go to the Liverpool squad, for example, I think [Mohamed] Salah , if you say he's playing well or not, he's still scoring goals. Harry Kane is still doing really well in the Tottenham team, for example."

Both remain key men this term, though Kane outscored Salah by a distance in 2022. This season, Kane's 15 goals put him second in the charts behind Erling Haaland, while Salah - who shared the Golden Boot with Son Heung-min last term - has just seven.

Fernandes was also impressed by Manchester City's title-winning midfielder Ilkay Gundogan - who would go on to help his side retain the trophy in 2022 - and Raphinha , then of Leeds. The Brazilian kicked on in the 2021-22 season, prompting interest from some big-hitters, and eventually left for Barcelona in a move which points to his quality.

Bruno Fernandes' 2021 verdict on best Premier League players and how it has agedJack Grealish has blown hot and cold since joining Manchester City (Getty Images)

Two other members of Manchester City's squad made Fernandes' list, though only one was there at the time. Ruben Dias' arrival from Benfica helped City win the 2020-21 title, while they followed up that success by adding Jack Grealish to their ranks from Aston Villa.

"As I've said, we have many players I can say now and it's difficult to choose just one. For example, Ruben Dias has come from Benfica and been consistent since he arrived," Fernandes said.

Both men have remained important squad members under Pep Guardiola, helping City top their Champions League group this term. While City trail Arsenal at the top of the Premier League, there is still time for Dias and Grealish to help them make up ground on their rivals.

Bruno Fernandes' 2021 verdict on best Premier League players and how it has agedInjuries have prevented Patrick Bamford from kicking on (AFP via Getty Images)

The final two spots went to a pair of Englishmen who have had mixed fortunes since the end of the 2020-21 season: Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount and Leeds striker Patrick Bamford .

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"I really like Mason Mount," Fernandes said. He's been consistent from the beginning of the season but, if people will watch numbers, he's not had so many goals as other players or assists as other players but, for me, as a performance he's been really, really top.

Mount helped Chelsea win the Champions League just weeks after his inclusion, while Bamford went on to finish the campaign with 17 goals. However, injuries have limited the Leeds man's involvement in the year and a half since.

While Fernandes was assessing players from the 2020-21 season, it is worth recognising that most have stood the test of time. Identifying a star of the present is one thing, but finding one whose stock will remain high for years to come can be a bigger challenge.

Of the nine men named by the United star, only the injury-hit Bamford has suffered a serious fall from grace, while Grealish has arguably dipped from his Villa form but still became a league champion. That's a pretty good hit rate in our book.

Tom Victor

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