Even as he contemplated the defeat of his own personal ambition, Eden Hazard make an eloquent case for why it is his team-mate N’Golo Kante who truly does deserve the PFA Player of the Year award, bestowed deep into Sunday night at London’s Grovesnor Hotel.
“N'Golo deserves it,” Hazard generously said before the award was announced. “Not only for this season but for his two seasons together in the Premier League. He is my favourite and I hope he gets it because that would be something for a player who do not always score and decide the matches. He is decisive but in a different way. And that would be good for football.”
Not for the first or last time this season, Kante has taken possession with authority.
Back in December, Kante, a tenacious bundle of midfield craft and graft, was named this website’s Man of the Year for 2016. That honour was indisputable. As the driving force behind the two best teams of the year - the Leicester team which won the title and the Chelsea side who went on a remarkable winning streak to give them an excellent chance of replacing them as champions – nobody came close to Kante in 2016. But the PFA award is for 2016-17, and that warrants closer consideration.
Hazard may have said that if he won he was planning to “invite N'Golo to come to me with the stage … so, we can divide it with two”, but there is an undeniably strong case that it should have been the Belgian up there, holding his second such award in three years. Hazard has been phenomenal for Antonio Conte this season, with his cameo at Wembley on Saturday demonstrating as much as he scored and collected an assist after coming on as a substitute in the 4-2 win over Spurs in the FA Cup semi-final.
Hazard has been the most entertaining player this season, surely the best attacker, and is responsible for one of the best goals of the season in the shape of his solo effort against Arsenal at Stamford Bridge. There have been so many virtuoso moments from a player who has decided so many matches. And yet, as Hazard said in his own words, it is no bad thing if football recognises a player like Kante for once.
This is still a sport which values attack over defence, an industry in which Real Madrid could chuck away Claude Makelele because they wanted more Galacticos. It probably will always be this way. Goals are the most visible component of what wins games. They are also the most valuable contribution a player can make. Kante could have three interceptions and three tackles every game but when Hazard nicks a last-minute winner it supersedes anything else.
Read the full article on eurosport.co.uk: Extraordinary Kante has broken the mould with PFA win