PFA Player of the Year: BBC pundits pick the Premier League's best player

Match of the Day

Voting closes on Friday for the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year award.

So who should be on the six-man shortlist when it is announced next week? And who will follow Leicester's Riyad Mahrez by taking the top prize?

Fifteen BBC football pundits - Alan Shearer, Danny Murphy, Phil Neville, Pat Nevin, Rachel Brown-Finnis, Mark Schwarzer, Jason Roberts, Dion Dublin, Chris Sutton, Ruud Gullit, Mark Lawrenson, John Hartson, Chris Waddle, Danny Mills and Trevor Sinclair - have chosen their six outstanding performers of 2016-17.

Eighteen different players feature in their shortlist selections - scroll down to see who they have picked as their best player, and vote for your choice.

In a BBC Sport poll, 51% of voters chose N'Golo Kante as their Player of the Year.

Alan Shearer: N'Golo Kante

Shearer's shortlist
Dele Alli (Tottenham)Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Man Utd)N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)
Romelu Lukaku (Everton)Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)

Shearer: "Only one person is going to win the PFA award, and I would expect him to win the Football Writers' award as well.

"N'Golo Kante had an amazing season for Leicester to help them win the title in 2015-16, and he has had the same impact this time around for Chelsea. It is no coincidence it looks like they are going to win the title too.

"Kante's energy is incredible - I don't think I've ever seen anyone cover as much ground as him on a football pitch.

"The protection he gives Chelsea's back three is a big reason why they are looking so tight at the minute. He did the same for Leicester last season, and look how they have struggled without him."

Kante's win % in the Premier League in 2015-16 and 2016-17
With 44 wins from 64 games, Kante has the highest win percentage of any player to play 25+ Premier League games over the past two seasons. Tom Carroll (Tottenham and Swansea) is next with 64.3% (18 wins from 28 games), then Manchester City's Aleksandar Kolarov with 61.1% (33 wins from 54 games)

Danny Murphy: Eden Hazard

Murphy's shortlist
Dele Alli (Tottenham)Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Man Utd)Harry Kane (Tottenham)
N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)Romelu Lukaku (Everton)

Murphy: "The two Chelsea players I've picked are a long way ahead of everyone else.

"Kante's inclusion does not need any explanation, really. He has got a bigger contract and is playing for a bigger team, but it has not affected his mentality. Without the ball he is just as hungry to cover his team-mates. His positional sense is brilliant and he rarely makes the wrong decision.

"People talk about his game improving from last season at Leicester, but it is not about that for me, it is about how he has adjusted to play with better players.

"And the more I watch him with the ball, because Chelsea are dominating games, you can see he is actually really comfortable in possession too.

"He is never going to open you up with his passing like, say, Michael Carrick can, but it does not matter because Chelsea have got other players who can do that.

Kante in 2015-16 compared to Kante in 2016-17

"The only reason I would put Eden Hazard above him is because there are times when you need that something extra, for example in Chelsea's FA Cup win over Manchester United.

"United matched Chelsea up everywhere but the reason they lost is because Phil Jones could not cope with Hazard.

"Hazard is the game-changer, the one who turns the draw into a win or finds the opposition's weakness, and he has raised the bar again with his performances this season.

"If I was sitting in the dressing room about to play Chelsea and Hazard's name wasn't on the teamsheet, then unless I was playing in midfield, I would be much happier than if Kante's name wasn't there.

"That is why he has the edge, and I think 90% of players would agree."

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FA Cup: Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United highlights

Phil Neville: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Neville's shortlist
Dele Alli (Tottenham)Diego Costa (Chelsea)
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Man Utd)
N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)David Silva (Man City)

Neville: "Zlatan Ibrahimovic is world class. He has carried United at times and the ability to play every game at his age is phenomenal."

Analysis: Why Man Utd must keep Ibrahimovic - Shearer

Pat Nevin - N'Golo Kante

Nevin's shortlist
Dele Alli (Tottenham)Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Man Utd)N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)
Romelu Lukaku (Everton)Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea)

Nevin: "Kante is going to win it but, as a forward-thinking player myself, Tottenham's Christian Eriksen has been my favourite player to watch this season.

"Most people look at Dele Alli and Harry Kane for Spurs but I always watch Eriksen, who has been brilliant for them.

Chances created in the Premier League 2016-17

"The only defenders who could have sneaked into my six are Southampton's Virgil van Dijk and Tottenham's Toby Alderweireld, but you can see the kind of players I go for.

"Swansea's Gylfi Sigurdsson might not be at the most fashionable club but he deserves to be on the list.

"Sigurdsson is 27, and if he were a few years younger then every club on the planet would be chasing him.

"Look at the number of assists Sigurdsson has got - his all-round creativity and his delivery is just phenomenal. If Swansea stay up, it is going to have a lot to do with him."

Goals and assists combined 2016-17

Rachel Brown-Finnis: Dele Alli

Brown-Finnis' shortlist
Dele Alli (Tottenham)Tom Heaton (Burnley)
Michael Keane (Burnley)Romelu Lukaku (Everton)
Sadio Mane (Liverpool)Danny Rose (Tottenham)

Brown-Finnis: "I went for players that have impressed me, not necessarily ones from the top teams.

"Several of Chelsea's players have been excellent but I see their strength as a team unit, and in their shape and tactics, rather than relying on outstanding individuals.

Chelsea's most likely XI
This Chelsea team has started 11 of their 22 Premier League matches since Antonio Conte switched to start a league game with a 3-4-3 formation for the first time, in the 2-0 win at Hull on 1 October. Only two other players have started league games for the club in that period - Willian (8 starts) and Cesc Fabregas (6)

"Liverpool's Sadio Mane is exciting to watch, as is Everton's Tom Davies, who does not make my six but should make the shortlist for young player of the year.

"Tottenham full-back Danny Rose has had an outstanding season and I am pleased he is now being recognised as one of the best there is in his position, because he has had to win a few people over.

"But I am going for Rose's team-mate at Spurs, Dele Alli, to win it. I don't think of him as a young player any more because he is already a leader, someone who can conduct play.

"Alli has been exceptional for Tottenham and when I watch him for England I just think 'yes!' - we have found the replacement for Steven Gerrard that we have been waiting for."

Dele Alli goals and assists 2016-17
With 27, Monaco forward Kylian Mbappe is the only player aged under 21 to have more combined goals (19) and assists (8) in Europe's top five leagues this season than Dele Alli, who turns 21 on 11 April

Mark Schwarzer: N'Golo Kante

Schwarzer's shortlist
Dele Alli (Tottenham)Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Man Utd)Harry Kane (Tottenham)
N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)David Luiz (Chelsea)

Schwarzer: "Kante has had the same effect as last season but has been at a different level altogether.

"Being at Chelsea was a huge step up from Leicester for him and people have also had time to analyse him so they knew how he played - but he is still someone who you just cannot contain.

"I have seen quite a lot of Chelsea this season and the one game that stands out for me where they did not play well was their defeat at Tottenham in January, which was one of the very few games where Kante actually had a bad game.

"When he plays well, Chelsea play well too - and pretty much always get a positive result.

Premier League tackles and interceptions 2016-17
Kante has made fewer tackles and interceptions per game this season than he did in 2015-16, but is still high in the Premier League rankings for both

"The same reasoning is why Tottenham striker Harry Kane is in my six. This is the third season in a row he has scored about 20 goals - teams have had a chance to work out his weaknesses and how to stop him from scoring - but they can't.

"He has been hampered by a couple of injuries but is still the second-top scorer in the Premier League. Without those injuries, I think he would be leading the pack."

Premier League top scorers since 2014-15

Jason Roberts: N'Golo Kante

Roberts' shortlist
Dele Alli (Tottenham)Jermain Defoe (Sunderland)
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)
David Luiz (Chelsea)Romelu Lukaku (Everton)

Roberts: "There is so much to come from Dele Alli but what we know about this young man now is he has huge talent, intelligence and a winning mentality.

"Jermain Defoe's season can be summed up by the fact he has scored 14 Premier League goals for a team that has managed 24 in total.

"Hazard's match-winning contributions are now pushing him into the world-class bracket, while David Luiz came back to England with a point to prove and has become a focal point of the top-flight's toughest defence.

"But my vote goes to Kante. He has been the most effective midfielder in England over the past two seasons."

Dion Dublin: Jermain Defoe

Dublin's shortlist
Jermain Defoe (Sunderland)Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Man Utd)
Harry Kane (Tottenham)N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)
Michael Keane (Burnley)Romelu Lukaku (Everton)

Dublin: "Burnley's Michael Keane is a big, strong reliable centre-half who defends first and accepts responsibility as a leader. He has a great passing range and puts his body on the line.

"Lukaku is growing into his talent and taking Everton to the next level. On his day, he is unplayable. Kane is consistently scoring goals and Ibrahimovic is 35, with the drive, determination and work-rate of an 18-year-old.

"But Defoe is a goal machine. He has scored vital goals at vital times and is single-handedly keeping Sunderland afloat.

"My heart says Defoe to be Player of the Year, but my head says whoever wins the Golden Boot as leading scorer will get it."

Jermain Defoe has been involved in 16 of Sunderland's 24 Premier League goals
Jermain Defoe has been involved in 16 of Sunderland's 24 Premier League goals. Romelu Lukaku is second (52.9% with involvement in 27 of Everton's 51 goals) and Gylfi Sigurdsson is third (52.8% with involvement in 19 of Swansea's 36 goals)

Chris Sutton: N'Golo Kante

Sutton's shortlist
Dele Alli (Tottenham)Diego Costa (Chelsea)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Man Utd)Harry Kane (Tottenham)
N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)Sadio Mane (Liverpool)

Sutton: "N'Golo Kante looks set to become the first player to win the English league title in successive seasons with two different teams since Eric Cantona did it with Leeds and Manchester United in 1992 and 1993.

"It is an achievement which shows how good he is, and he has been a major influence on Chelsea's success - I do not remember a game where they have been dominated in the middle of the park.

"If you look at how Liverpool struggled when Sadio Mane was away at the African Cup of Nations in January, then you can see the impact he has had. He has been sensational this season and is absolutely unstoppable with his pace and trickery - he can go past people so easily.

"I think Dele Alli will walk away with the young player award, but he deserves to be on this list too. He is such a clever player and seems to be getting better and better.

"And Diego Costa has to be there as well. I was one of those who were critical of him last season, when it looked like he would be leaving Chelsea, but he has responded incredibly well."

Liverpool with and without Sadio Mane

Mark Lawrenson: N'Golo Kante

Lawro's shortlist
Dele Alli (Tottenham)Diego Costa (Chelsea)
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Man Utd)
N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)Romelu Lukaku (Everton)

Lawro: "Kante, Hazard and Costa have made the difference for Chelsea this season. That's why they are so far clear at the top of the league.

Top of the Premier League

"As everyone now knows, signing Kante is like signing two players. He does not seem to get injured and is hardly ever suspended - the one league game he has missed this season - against Bournemouth on Boxing Day - was through a ban for picking up five bookings.

"He has been phenomenal and would just about edge out Hazard for me.

"Costa does not seem to get as much credit for Chelsea's success this season, but he remains a beast of a striker.

"Along with Hazard he has been able to come up with a moment of quality when it is needed to settle a tight game."

19 points won by Costa's goals and assists
Diego Costa's goals and assists have won more points than anyone else in the top flight this season - and 28% of Chelsea's total. Harry Kane is second with 18 points, with Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic third with 16

Ruud Gullit: Eden Hazard

Gullit's shortlist
Dele Alli (Tottenham)Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Man Utd)Harry Kane (Tottenham)
N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)Romelu Lukaku (Everton)

Gullit: "Hazard would get my vote, because he has been extremely important for lots of Chelsea's victories.

"Kante has played a big part as well, of course, but if I was manager and had to choose one of them to be in my team, I would take Hazard.

"They are both unbelievably good at the jobs they do but I like the style of Hazard, he is an exciting player.

"After a very difficult season with Chelsea, when he was accused of being one of the instigators of Jose Mourinho's departure as manager, he has bounced back very well."

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The Premier League Show: Antonio Conte interview

John Hartson: N'Golo Kante

Hartson's shortlist
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Man Utd)
Harry Kane (Tottenham)N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)
Romelu Lukaku (Everton)Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)

Hartson: "I am a huge fan of Alexis Sanchez, who is a scorer of great goals and never wants to come off the pitch.

"Like Kane, Lukaku has had a few seasons now where he has scored more than 20 goals and you need that consistency to go down as one of the greats.

"Everton cannot afford to lose Lukaku, basically. If they want to keep progressing under Ronald Koeman, then he has to stay - but there will be lots of offers for him.

"As for the winner, well it is down to Hazard or Kante, but I will go for Kante - he is the best there is in that Claude Makelele position."

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Archive: Everybody loves N'Golo: Pundits purr over Kante

Chris Waddle: Eden Hazard

Waddle's shortlist
Dele Alli (Tottenham)Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Man Utd)David Luiz (Chelsea)
Harry Kane (Tottenham)N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)

Waddle: "Kante is brilliant at spotting danger but he is not a player I would pay to watch. The hardest part of the game is to create and score, and to entertain, and Hazard has done it all unbelievably well.

"Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has got the best out of him because the shape they play has not got him tracking back, it gets him in the opposition half and he has a licence to wander inside if he is not getting the ball wide on the left.

"Hazard takes people on, is two-footed and has got pace. His balance is phenomenal and he has been extremely consistent too. He has been the best player in the Premier League.

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Why Hazard is reborn in Conte's 3-4-3

"I have gone for David Luiz as the third Chelsea player in my six. At times he was a liability in his first spell at the club but he has learned when not to overplay at the wrong time.

"I was at Stoke when Chelsea won there before the international break and Luiz was just quality. He read everything at the back and his distribution was brilliant."

Danny Mills: N'Golo Kante

Mills' shortlist
Dele Alli (Tottenham)Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Man Utd)Harry Kane (Tottenham)
N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)Romelu Lukaku (Everton)

Mills: "I am not surprised that Kante has been so good again, and he is in a better team which helps.

"Ibrahimovic is the surprise package - he was always going to score goals but he has surpassed a lot of people's expectations.

"It is vital Manchester United keep him for next season, even if he does not play so much - as well as his goals, he is great for their young players to learn from."

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Highlights: Blackburn 1-2 Man Utd

Trevor Sinclair: N'Golo Kante

Sinclair's shortlist
Dele Alli (Tottenham)Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)
Romelu Lukaku (Everton)Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea)

Sinclair: "Gary Cahill is Chelsea's 'Captain Fantastic' - a brilliant leader.

"His development since his days at Aston Villa and Bolton has been incredible and he has filled the unfillable by stepping into John Terry's boots.

"But Kante is the perfect team player - selfless, intelligent and industrious.

"He is fearless at mixing with anyone, and the best at playing to his strengths - and his strength is winning."

The verdict - Kante cleans up

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