N’Golo Kante has won the PFA player of the year award, beating teammate Eden Hazard during the vote to pick up the honor for the first time.
Kante’s been a dominating force in Chelsea’s midfield throughout the season, nearly singlehandedly altering teams’ game plans to account for his presence in the middle of the park. His incessant running, telepathic knowledge of the ball’s path and underrated skill at keeping play ticking over have been of paramount importance to Antonio Conte’s 3-4-2-1 formation, and his versatility and ability to partnerships with both Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas have given the Italian manager a number of tactical options.
Kante was the revelation of the league last year in Leicester’s midfield, but his impact hasn’t diminished one bit in a new shirt. He hasn’t just been phenomenal, he’s made his teammates better, and alongside him both Matic and Fabregas have reaped the benefits. He beat teammate Hazard to the award, and according to the Belgian, it was absolutely the right decision.
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“N’Golo deserves it,” said Hazard in the postgame interview following Chelsea’s FA Cup win over Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday. “Not only for this season but for his two seasons together in the Premier League.”
“He is my favorite 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.”
Kante saw former Leicester City teammate Riyad Mahrez beat him in the voting last year, despite arguably deserving it on the strength of his performances over the course of the year. It’s evident just how important his presence is, as without him, defending champs Leicester have battled to stay out of the relegation zone for much of the year, while Chelsea went from 10th to sitting on top of the league.
The 26-year-old Kante held off competition from Hazard as well as Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Everton striker Romelu Lukaku, Zlatan of Manchester United and Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez.
This is Kante’s first ever PFA award, and he could go on to make more history this year. If he’s able to help Chelsea to the Premier League title, he’ll become the first ever player to win the EPL trophy in consecutive years with two different teams.