LONDON, March 11 (Reuters) - Liverpool's Luis Suarez will be the greatest player not to win one of England's player of the year awards if he is overlooked this season, according to his captain Steven Gerrard.
The tricky Uruguayan netted with an impudent finish in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday to take his season's Premier League tally to 22, three clear of Manchester United's Robin van Persie at the top of the scoring charts.
Nonetheless, his inability to shake a pantomime villain tag that has dogged him since he arrived at the club from Ajax Amsterdam in 2011 means he is unlikely to be crowned the country's best when the accolades are distributed.
"He's been doing that for us all season," Gerrard said on the club website (www.liverpoolfc.com) on Monday after another match-winning display from Suarez, who scored Liverpool's opener and won the penalty from which his captain netted the winner.
"He's top scorer in the league now and he's been incredible. I can't put into words how good he's been.
"If he doesn't win an award this year, he'll be the best player ever not to win an award."
The 26-year-old has been caught up in a hailstorm of negative publicity since he arrived at Liverpool having served a long-term ban in the Netherlands for biting an opponent.
At Liverpool, he quickly garnered a reputation for going to ground too easily in the penalty area and was then hit with an eight-match ban after being found guilty by the Football Association of racially abusing United's Patrice Evra.
While he has worked hard to shed the 'diver' tag, he still polarises opinion among fans and the media.
On Sunday Suarez came up against one of his main opponents for a player of the year award, Gareth Bale, whose run of scoring in five successive Premier League games came to an end against a Liverpool side who worked hard to shut him out.
The Wales international, who like Suarez has a reputation for diving, is the odds-on favourite to win both the players' player of the year award as well as that given out by English football writers.
"Bale's in top form and probably one of the best players in the world on current form," Gerrard added.
"But luckily enough, we've got a player who is as equally as good as him in Luis Suarez - and I think Luis may just pip him to Player of the Year, in my opinion." (Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by xxx)