LONDON Controversial Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was named the English Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) player of the year on Sunday.
The 27-year-old Uruguayan, who will lead his country at the World Cup in Brazil in June, has scored 30 goals and contributed 12 assists this season as Liverpool head the Premier League table with two matches remaining.
"The Premier League is full of really great players and so it is a great honour when these players recognise your work on the pitch," Suarez said.
He claimed the honour ahead of team mates Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge, as well as Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard, Manchester City's Yaya Toure and Adam Lallana of Premier League surprise packages Southampton.
The irrepressible Suarez, the first Liverpool player since Ian Rush in 1986-87 to score 30 league goals in a season, has helped the likes of fellow striker Sturridge to flourish.
His personal haul has arrived despite missing the first five league games of the season as he served the remainder of a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic last April.
That incident occurred just before Tottenham Hotspur forward Gareth Bale claimed last season's award and the announcement of Suarez in the Premier League team of the year was met with rumblings of discontent.
Suarez tried to engineer a move to Arsenal in the off-season, before returning to Liverpool with devastating effect, leading the Anfield club back into the Champions League and taking them to the brink of a first title in 24 years.
He has tormented top-level defenders with his speed, guile and deadly finishing and none of his 30 goals have come from the penalty spot.
"He's a remarkable player. His determination and his desire is at such a high level. He gets his rewards," manager Brendan Rodgers said of Suarez after he scored a hat-trick against Cardiff City last month, his third of the season.
"He's a world-class player who is enjoying his football and long may it continue."
Suarez was one of three Liverpool players named in the PFA team of the year along with midfielder Steven Gerrard and fellow striker Daniel Sturridge.
Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech, defender Gary Cahill and midfielder Eden Hazard were also included as well as Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany and midfielder Yaya Toure, Southampton left back Luke Shaw and midfielder Adam Lallana, and Everton right back Seamus Coleman.
Hazard was named PFA young player of the year.
(Reporting by Josh Reich)