Thierry Henry. Cristiano Ronaldo. Wayne Rooney. Gareth Bale. Luis Suarez. Eden Hazard. N’Golo Kante. Mo Salah.
And Ruben Dias?
The above players are the only eight men to have completed the perfect individual season of winning the top three individual awards in top-flight English football.
It takes a superb player at the top of their game for an entire year to win the Premier League Player of the Year, the Football Writers Footballer of the Year, and the PFA Player of the Year.
To win all three, you have to be recognised by your fellow professionals, by the writers and journalists who follow you closely every week, and by fans and sponsors who make the Premier League what it is. That means perfection on and off the field at all times.
As the names mentioned attest, it’s not easy to impress everyone watching over a season enough to win all three awards. It takes a top-class player to complete the clean sweep, so it’s no surprise that goalscorers and creative players dominate the players to have done it.
So having already won the FWA award and Premier League award, Manchester City’s Ruben Dias can make history by adding his name to the list tonight.
Shortlisted for the PFA award alongside three City teammates, Dias is favourite for the most prestigious individual accolade. If he can win it, he will become the first defender to win all three annual trophies.
It’s even more remarkable that Dias has got to this stage without even playing a full season – he joined three games into the campaign, instantly transforming a slow start into a title-winning side.
Only seven defenders have won the PFA award in its 48-year history, so to break the pattern of midfielders and attackers would be a success in itself. He faces stiff competition from teammates Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden and Ilkay Gundogan, alongside the prolific Harry Kane and brilliant Bruno Fernandes.
But sometimes there comes a time where appreciation needs to go to the art of defending. Virgil Van Dijk won this award two years ago after having a similar impact on a shaky defence. Dias has had an equally influential season as Van Dijk did in 2019, if not more.
To complete the individual treble would be a fine recognition for one of the best impact signings City have made in recent years.
Win or lose the PFA awards, Dias’s next next test remains unchanged – to go again. He has set a benchmark to build on to add more titles and join the conversation of being a Premier League great. The alternative is to fade away and join Michu as the ultimate one-season wonder.
But that’s not likely.
He’s probably going to have to make room for a bigger trophy cabinet after this season.