On Thursday, the Professional Footballers' Association announced the nominees for the Player of the Year award. The current holder of the trophy, Riyad Mahrez, didn't make the final cut, but there are plenty of stars worthy of taking his place.
With six candidates on the short list, who is most deserving of the award? There's still plenty of matches left to play, but if the award were to be handed out today, here's who we'd give it to in order of least deserving to most deserving.
Harry Kane — Tottenham
His case: If he hadn't missed so much time with injury, Kane would surely be higher up the list. Unfortunately, an ankle injury kept the Spurs star on the shelf for eight Premier League matches throughout the season. Still, his production in spite of that is staggering. He's second in the Golden Boot race in the Premier league. Think about that.
Alexis Sanchez — Arsenal
His case: Sanchez has done it all for Arsenal despite their troubling season. Of course, his rumored want-away saga didn't help things, but it didn't seem to affect him on the pitch. Shoehorned into a more central striker role for much of the season, Sanchez has thrived wherever Arsene Wenger put him. Arsenal might be a dud, but Sanchez's 18 goals and nine assists absolve him of any fault on that front.
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Zlatan Ibrahimovic — Manchester United
His case: I'd be lying if I said age didn't play a factor into his ranking. What Ibrahimovic is doing -- a league he's never played in before -- at his age is simply amazing. He's scored a whopping 28 goals in all competitions (17 in the EPL) and has singlehandedly kept Jose Mourinho's feet away from the fire. He doesn't deserve to win the award, but he should definitely be in the conversation.
Romelu Lukaku — Everton
His case: As the league's top scorer, Lukaku has asserted himself as a bonafide threat to opposing defenses. He has 23 goals on the season, four more than second-place Kane, and shows little signs of slowing down en route to the Golden Boot. The Belgian has six assists, too, meaning he's been directly involved in just over half of all of Everton's goals scored this season.
Eden Hazard — Chelsea
His case: Hazard won the award once before in 2014/15 and is looking to become the most recent two-time winner of the trophy. Gareth Bale last accomplished that feat as winner in 2010/11 and 2012/13. After last season's dismal performance, Hazard has regained the form that made him look like a future Ballon d'Or contender. With 14 goals and five assists, his influence in Chelsea's attack has the Blues sitting pretty in the title chase. He'd be a shoo-in for the trophy if not for one guy ...
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N'Golo Kante — Chelsea
Key stat: Statistics alone don't tell the story of Kante's dominance. He doesn't score bunches of goals or pick out teammates for assists. Instead, the Frenchman does all the dirty work to allow the rest of his teammates the freedom to flourish. He's a humble, hard-working midfielder with boundless energy. He's played nearly every single minute that the Premier League will allow him to! (He was suspended for yellow card accumulation on Boxing Day and took an 11-minute breather against Spurs on Jan. 4). He's the glue guy for Chelsea, and it's impossible not to use Leicester's freefall as a lens to view Kante's quality. The case could be made he should have won the award last year. It'd be a shame if that mistake were made again this time around.