PFA Player of the Year nominations: Our experts make the case for who should win and why

Telegraph Sport
PFA Player of the Year nominations: Who should win and why

N'Golo Kante, Chelsea

You want to win the Premier League title, right? Sign N'Golo Kante. When the email asking me to write a few hundred words on Kante dropped, it felt like the equivalent of a tap-in from two yards, with the goalkeeper stranded and the back four nowhere to be seen.

Kante has been a phenomenon since first arriving in England as a wide-eyed Frenchman with the perma-smile and a fondness for Jules Verne novels. He was a leading character in the Leicester fairytale last season and has arguably elevated his game to an even higher plane at Chelsea, under the shrewd intuitive management of Antonio Conte.

The diminutive destroyer, the ultimate spoiler of strategies, Kante has now emerged as one of the best midfielders in Europe - if not the best. He does the ugly stuff, sure, and much of his work goes unnoticed, yet Chelsea could not function without him. Indeed, it took Leicester months to recover from his £30 million departure in the summer, a move which has undoubtedly been vindicated.

Kante is the footballing equivalent of the iPhone 7 - there is nothing he cannot do. He would be a deserving winner of the PFA Player of the Year award, with two title winners' medals in two years all the evidence you need of his vast influence.

John Percy

N'Golo Kante has enjoyed a masterful season
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Manchester United

For United supporters, it is barely worth considering where their team would be this season without the indefatigable Swede. Thirty five going on 25, he has often come to United's rescue with 28 goals in his debut season in England at a time when manager Jose Mourinho has been bemoaning his side's wastefulness.

Time and again he has scored decisive goals in the Premier League and Europe, while he claimed winners in the League Cup final and Community Shield.

Has he been flawless? No. He has missed plenty of chances himself and was banned for three matches for elbowing Bournemouth's Tyrone Mings, but this self-professed "lion" of footballers has brought some bite and roar back to a United squad that was in desperate need of his winning mentality and presence.

Zlatan

Ibrahimovic's contribution should not be measured in just goals. He has raised standards in the dressing room, like Roy Keane used to do, and helped others to find their voice and rediscover their confidence, such as Ander Herrera, Antonio Valencia and Juan Mata.

He has also called it as he sees it, recently claiming the team wasn't good enough and needed another injection of big-game players. They are home truths that needed delivering although he has also questioned the club's ambitions and needs to be careful not to cross a line. 

James Ducker

Eden Hazard, Chelsea

If Eden Hazard was a little more insecure about himself, or worried about his place in the world, then perhaps you might see a footballer with a greater intensity who cared more about whether his goals-to-game ratio was comparable with Bobby Tambling or the like.

The fact is that Hazard does not bother too much with any of that and in a relentless, modern game, measured out in high-intensity runs made and duels won, Hazard is that unusual thing: a mood player. He is either in the mood or he is not but when he is there is no finer sight in the Premier League than this most richly-talented, attacking footballer.

This season his 14 goals put him ninth in the current goalscorers list and he does not place in the top 20 for assists. But he is a matchwinner, that unquantifiable quality in a player to lift a team and change a game.

Eden Hazard rounds Artur Boruc to score for Chelsea against Bournemouth last weekend

If Artur Boruc had his time again he would probably still assume Hazard was going to finish with his right foot at the Vitality Stadium last Saturday, even though we all know the Belgian switched it over to his left and left the goalkeeper looking in the wrong places.

This could be a year when a holding midfielder wins the award, which is all well and good, but there is no bigger, more watchable talent in the Premier League than the man who wears Chelsea’s No 10.

Sam Wallace

Harry Kane, Tottenham

Tottenham still do not get the credit they deserve. With only the sixth-biggest budget, they have challenged strongly to win the last two Premier League titles and seem to have little of the difficulty that afflicts their north London neighbours at Arsenal in keeping their best players.

Harry Kane, who signed a new contract last year, has been both their talisman and the outstanding Premier League striker of the past few years. He is on course to finish a third straight season with more than 20 league goals.

To put that in perspective, Diego Costa has managed this once and has scored 16 fewer league goals than Kane over the past three seasons. Alexis Sanchez is 18 behind the Spurs striker, who has also scored four more than Sergio Aguero in the past two seasons.

Harry Kane is adored by Tottenham fans

The statistics are compelling but there is an added intangible that makes Kane so important. Having been developed by Spurs, supporters identify with him like no other and just his presence has an unquantifiable but undeniably significant impact on the whole atmosphere of home games.

Spurs are doing something special just now even in challenging Chelsea and out-performing Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United – and Kane is the main on-field reason.

Jeremy Wilson

Romelu Lukaku, Everton

Quite where Everton would be without their star striker is a question that will probably be answered next season. It is a huge worry for a club driven by Champions League aspirations. 

Sell Lukaku in the summer and that ambition will surely remain a pipe dream. The Belgium international is good enough to play for any of their domestic rivals, who must be tempted to weaken Everton by taking advantage of his failure to sign a new contract. 

Strong, good in the air, quick and skilful, he is turning into the complete centre forward and at the age of 23 he is a frightening prospect. He is capable of scoring every type of goal and although his record against the top teams is a blemish, the former Chelsea player is going to become one of the world's best. 

The PFA award may be slightly beyond his reach this year, but he is going to win it one day. There is not a better centre forward in England at the moment.

Luke Edwards

Romelu Lukaku is becoming a complete striker
Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal

There's a theory that Alexis Sanchez shouldn't be Player of the Year because Arsenal have been so poor this season. But this isn't a team award: those things already exist, and they're called league titles.

So while N'Golo Kante, Eden Hazard and Harry Kane have all contributed to - and been improved by - outstanding collective units, if you're looking for the outstanding individual player in English football today, it's not even a contest.

Target man, penalty-box poacher, wide attacker, conventional winger, playmaker, false nine: Sanchez can do them all to an exceptionally high level, and that's not something you can say about any of the others. But it's not just about versatility. He produces in every facet of the game.

Seven possible destinations for Sanchez

The third most goals, the fourth most assists; nobody else even makes the top 10 in both categories. More key passes than anyone on the shortlist. More tackles and interceptions than anybody but Kante.

He may not be the flavour of the month, largely because of the ongoing wrangling over his contract. But that, if anything, shows how desperately Arsenal rely on him. You could argue that in recent weeks, surrounded by a failing team, he hasn't quite been able to match that scintillating early-season form. But then again, nor has anybody else.

Jonathan Liew

RegisterLog incommenting policy

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes