N'Golo Kante: Why Chelsea midfielder won PFA Player of the Year
The unassuming Frenchman has become the first defensive midfielder to win the award since Roy Keane in 2000
Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante has been named PFA Player of the Year, becoming the first non-forward to win the award for more than a decade.
In recent seasons attacking players have dominated and the last winner who was not a striker, winger or attacking midfielder was defender John Terry in 2004.
Kante, who moved to Chelsea from Leicester for £32m at the end of last season, is the first midfield enforcer to win the accolade since Roy Keane in 2000.
So how did the 26-year-old beat Eden Hazard, Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alexis Sanchez to the accolade?
"Kante has played a key role in Chelsea's surge to the top of the league this season and is renowned as a tireless box-to-box competitor who helps break up opposition attacks and initiate them for his own side," says The Guardian. "He will become the first player to achieve the distinction of winning successive Premier League titles with two different clubs if Chelsea can hold off Tottenham in this season's championship race."
The midfielder is "unassuming" off the field but "a force" on it, says the London Evening Standard. And the statistics prove it.
"Kante's energy is second to none and he has dominated many a midfield battle, making a total of 110 tackles," says the paper. That is the second highest figure in the Premier League.
"The midfielder has made 72 interceptions - more than any other Chelsea player - while his passing tally stands at an impressive 1,899."
Recognition is overdue, says Tom Adams of Eurosport. Football remains a sport that is decided by goals and which values attack over defence but "there is no harm in occasionally celebrating other qualities which are needed to win matches, the qualities Kante embodies, the selfless hard work which gives others the platform to shine".
On top of that Kante is a humble and modest character - he drives a Mini not a Ferrari - and there was no mistaking the warmth of the reaction when he was handed the award.
Before his coronation Daniel Taylor of The Guardian recounted a story that neatly sums the Frenchman up.
"A lot is made of the fact Kante prefers to drive a Mini rather than operating with the fleet of dream machines that other members of his profession consider essential. But it turns out that when Kante first arrived in Leicester he was not even sure he needed any wheels. Kante, the story goes, reckoned it was possible to run into training every day and had to be persuaded that it wasn't usually done that way in the Premier League."
N'Golo Kante favourite to win PFA Player of the Year award
Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante is favourite to lift the PFA Player of the Year award after the six-man shortlist was announced.
Kante is the only defensive minded player on the list, which also features his Chelsea teammate Eden Hazard, Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal, Romelu Lukaku of Everton, Man Utd striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Harry Kane of Spurs.
Kane and Lukaku also feature on the Young Player of the Year shortlist along with Dele Alli, also of Spurs, Michael Keane of Burnley, Sunderland's Jordan Pickford and Leroy Sane of Manchester City.
"Kante, who was shortlisted last year for his part in Leicester's remarkable season but did not make the top three, is the bookmakers' favourite for the 2016-17 accolade, with the winners to be announced at Grosvenor House in London on Sunday, 23 April," says The Times.
Hazard won the award in 2015, the last time Chelsea won the title. He and Kante are the standout candidates for the award, says Martin Keown of the Daily Mail.
"Kante is now the benchmark for central midfielders," he adds. "He is like an extra player in the way he makes sure his team are not outnumbered in every area of the pitch."
He continues that Hazard can count himself "unlucky" as he is "getting close" to the level of players such as Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Bale and Neymar. "He is the Premier League's nearest thing to those players."
Man City's Lucy Bronze "leads the contenders" for the Women's PFA Player of the Year award, says Sky Sports. Teammates Jane Ross and Jill Scott are also on the shortlist, along with Karen Carney of Chelsea, Birmingham City's Ellen White and Liverpool's Caroline Weir.
Weir is also nominated for the Women's Young Player of the Year, battling Millie Bright of Chelsea, Jess Carter of Birmingham and the Man City trio of Nikita Parris, Georgia Stanway and Keira Walsh.