N’Golo Kante has been voted the Professional Footballers’ Association player of the year.
The tireless midfielder, 26, has been central to Chelsea’s surge to the Premier League summit. The Frenchman, bought from Leicester for £32million in July, is on course to win back-to-back titles.
He secured the most votes from his peers, seeing off competition from team-mate Eden Hazard plus Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United, Everton’s Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal.
Kante was presented with the award at the Grosvenor Hotel in London on Sunday evening.
He said: ‘To be chosen by the players to be player of the year means a lot to me.
‘It means the world to be chosen and it’s been two beautiful seasons, one with Leicester, and we are in good form with Chelsea. To be player of the year, it’s a great honour.’
On his move from Leicester to Stamford Bridge, Kante continued: ‘It’s a different type of playing, but with the manager, with the players, everything is easy, because we work a lot to be good in the games. It’s working very well.’
Asked about the influence of boss Antonio Conte, the former Boulogne and Caen player said: ‘He knows what he wants from the players.
‘He wants to win, and we work very, very, very hard in training for him. He put a winning mentality into the squad, and everyone wants to give their best for the team, and to make Chelsea win titles.’
The Blues are four points clear at the top of the Premier League and Paris-born Kante added: ‘We have to fight for six more games.
‘We’re going to fight like a final for every game, and hopefully we can win the league at the end of the season.’
Chelsea will also face Arsenal in the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 27 and, on talk of a double, he said: ‘We’re going to fight for both competitions.
‘The cup is just one game, and the league six games, and we’re going to give our best to win these two competitions.’
Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli won the Young Player prize for the second successive season, Manchester City’s Lucy Bronze won the Women’s Player of the Year award for the second time having also won it in 2014, and Birmingham’s Jess Carter topped the voting in the Women’s Young Player category.
Former England captain David Beckham received the PFA’s Merit award for his contribution to the game.
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.
He is set to become the first player to achieve the distinction of winning successive Premier League titles with different clubs if Chelsea can hold off Tottenham in this season’s championship race.
Blues manager Antonio Conte joked after another commanding display by Kante in a win over West Ham last month that he is struggling to find a fault in his game.
‘He made five mistakes. He has to improve in this. He has to improve,’ Conte said.
‘I am joking. But I have to find one situation to tell him to improve. He’s playing really well.
‘He has great stamina, great quality and we are working to improve that quality. I’m pleased for him.’
Kante is modest about his outstanding ability, as former Leicester director of football Steve Walsh revealed.
Walsh, speaking to the Sunday Times, said that Kante had approached him about playing for Mali, the country of his parents’ birth, last season during Leicester’s incredible and unlikely title triumph.
Walsh told Kante he should represent France, but the player asked whether he was good enough.
Walsh said: ‘You’ll get in any team, mate. If we had a World XI, you’d be in it.’
Alli’s Young Player prize is some consolation for his controversial omission from the six-man shortlist for the senior award.
The England midfielder, 21, has again been critical to Spurs’ title push and heading into the weekend was the highest-scoring player in the league not recognised as a forward, with 16 goals.
England full back Bronze won the Women’s Player of the Year award for the second time, after being part of the Manchester City squad which won the Women’s Super League without losing a single game in 2016.
Birmingham midfielder Carter saw off competition from three Manchester City players to win the Women’s Young Player of the Year award.
Beckham, who won 115 England caps and starred at club level for Manchester United, followed ex-Red Devils team-mate Ryan Giggs in winning the Merit prize. He also received the prize alongside his ‘Class of 92’ United team-mates in 2013.
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