Sunday 19 January 2020

Daniel McDonnell: N'Golo Kante deserves surprise PFA win

Leicester’s N’Golo Kante. Photo: Getty
Leicester’s N’Golo Kante. Photo: Getty
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The history of the PFA Player of the Year award would suggest that attacking flair will always win the day.

In the Premier League era, our own Paul McGrath (1993) and John Terry (2005) are the only defenders to be voted as the division's top performer by their peers. Roy Keane (2000) stands alone as a winning midfielder that was proficient at stopping opponents from thriving.

Therefore, it's probably far fetched to believe that Leicester's N'Golo Kante (right) will triumph from the six-man shortlist that was revealed yesterday and that's a shame.

His club colleagues Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy have combined for a host of key goals that will dominate the montage if they defy the odds to win the league title while the inspirational Harry Kane has driven Tottenham's challenge.

West Ham's Dimitri Payet is an outstanding contender, while Mesut Ozil is the king of assists although John Giles will doubtless lead the chorus of disapproval at his presence in the final six. Spurs' dynamo Dele Alli is unlucky to miss out and is surely on course to be crowned as the top young player.

Kante should be in the running, however, because he is a significant factor in the question that has been asked consistently throughout a remarkable year - how have Leicester suddenly turned from relegation contenders into runaway leaders?


The deal to sign the French midfielder from Caen for £5.6m was essentially in place when Claudio Ranieri was appointed last summer but he was unsure about it. Head of recruitment Steve Walsh convinced him it would be a good idea and the Italian is glad that he listened to the sound judgement.

Kante is the battery of the Leicester team, an energetic shield that protects a defence that has shone since Christmas. The 25-year-old has made more tackles and interceptions than any other player in the Premier League.

Leicester have not conceded a goal in his last six games. He was absent for the 2-2 draw with West Brom which prompted fears that the wheels were in danger of coming off. Once he shook off an injury, the wheels were fastened again.

The danger for the Leicester trio would be a splitting of their vote that could open the door for Kane or Payet. In terms of pure entertainment, there is a compelling case to be presented for Payet yet a look through the roll of honour provides the reminder that David Ginola was picked in Manchester United's treble season.

Leicester's ascension may well be remembered for the strength of the collective, but they still have outstanding individuals which have shaped the story of the season. Kante is worthy of joining an illustrious list.

Nominees - Men's PFA Players' Player of the Year - Dimitri Payet (West Ham), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Jamie Vardy (Leicester), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), N'Golo Kante (Leicester), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester)

Men's PFA Young Player of the Year - Dele Alli (Tottenham), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Jack Butland (Stoke), Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool), Romelu Lukaku (Everton), Ross Barkley (Everton)

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