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Stewart Downing says Luis Suarez should be judged on his football and not his chequered past when it comes to deciding the Player of the Year.
The Uruguay international's hat-trick in the 4-0 demolition of Wigan took his league tally to 21 in 27 games, edging him two ahead of main rival Robin van Persie of Manchester United and six in front of Tottenham's Gareth Bale, the other major contender.
However, while the 26-year-old is a player loved by his own team-mates and fans the feelings towards him outside of that circle differ immensely.
He is still struggling to shake off an unwanted diving tag while last year's eight-match ban after being found guilty of racially abusing United's Patrice Evra cannot be forgotten.
But Downing stressed the footballer of the year should be decided purely on what has happened this season on the pitch and there is little argument Suarez has been phenomenal so far.
"I wouldn't like to say who will get it. They're all great players, they've all had great seasons," said the England international.
"Bale is Tottenham's main man, Luis is ours with his goals and Van Persie is great. They're all top players and it's a hard choice.
"It could go any way, that's how close it will be. It may end up with whoever gets the most goals this season, so Luis is in with a hell of a chance.
"It should only be judged on his performance on the field - and you can't fault him for that.
"Obviously he's had things which have happened in the past but he's got on with his football and does his job at the end of the day.
"It should be judged on how he plays and, for me, that's all it boils down to. Nothing else should matter - I think he's got a hell of a chance."
Suarez achieved something former Kop hero Michael Owen never did by going past 20 Premier League goals for the campaign - the former Reds striker's best was only 19.
It put him in a category alongside Robbie Fowler (25) and Fernando Torres (24) as the only Liverpool players to score 20 or more but with 10 matches to go it seems inconceivable he will not surpass their best efforts.
"The goals he's scored are frightening, especially in this league," added Downing.
"It's the hardest league to get goals in but he's had two good seasons for goals.
"I'm sure he will get many more and there are still 10 games to go. You never know what he could get, 30-odd."