PFA Player of the Year: Chelsea's N'Golo Kante wins top award for 2016-17

Kante wins PFA Player of the Year award

N'Golo Kante has won the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year award for 2016-17.

The Chelsea midfielder, 26, beat Eden Hazard, Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alexis Sanchez in the vote by his fellow players.

Tottenham's Dele Alli won the young player prize for the second successive year. Manchester City's Lucy Bronze won the Women's Player of the Year award.

Birmingham's Jess Carter was named Women's Young Player of the Year.

N'Golo Kante
N'Golo Kante joined Chelsea from last season's Premier League champions Leicester last July

Kante said: "It's a huge honour to be chosen by the other players. It's the biggest honour to get this award."

The midfielder is on course to win the Premier League with Chelsea, having done so last season at Leicester, and added: "My first two seasons were very beautiful. Last season was very beautiful. This season so far, we have had a good season but we have to finish well."

Former England captain David Beckham received the PFA's Merit award for his contribution to the game during the ceremony at the Grosvenor Hotel in London on Sunday.

Former England women's captain Kelly Smith - who became England's first female professional footballer when she joined American side New Jersey in 1999 - landed the PFA Special Achievement award.

The league's 'most complete midfielder'

Kante was key to Leicester's surprise Premier League win last year and could become first player to achieve the distinction of winning successive titles with different clubs if Chelsea can stay ahead of Spurs in this season's race.

Since signing Kante in July, Chelsea have gone from a mid-table finish to the top of the pile with six games to play.

In his absence, Leicester have largely struggled to replicate their heroics of last season and are still not safe from relegation.

France international Kante has played every minute in the league this season apart from the Boxing Day game against Bournemouth, when he was suspended, and the final 11 minutes against Tottenham on 4 January.

N'Golo Kante - 2016-17 Premier League season
Appearances: 31Duels (won): 342 (174)
Goals: 1Interceptions: 72
Assists: 1Clearances: 40
Passes (successful): 1,899 (88.78%)Blocks: 4
Tackles: 110Dribbles (successful): 47 (68.09%)

BBC pundit Danny Murphy, speaking on Match of the Day 2 on Sunday, described Kante as irreplaceable in the Chelsea line-up.

Former England midfielder Murphy said: "He's the one you can't replace. If Eden Hazard wasn't there, you could put Willian in. Kante is the best midfielder in the Premier League, if not Europe."

Matthew Upson, the former England defender, added on the same programme: "It's 100% deserved. He is the most valuable player in the Premier League with his contribution.

"He might not be the most creative player, or have the biggest sudden impact, but over the course of the season he is the most valuable player in the Premier League. He's been outstanding."

Speaking earlier this season, BBC pundit Phil Neville described Kante as "the one who has knitted this Chelsea team together".

"I thought he was a number six like former Chelsea player Claude Makelele. But he is a number six, an eight and a 10 - he plays absolutely everywhere, three different positions," he said.

"I think Kante is the most complete midfielder in the Premier League at the moment.

"He will redefine what we are looking for from a midfield player."

Kante has 'fear factor'

Kante is famously a quiet man, yet on the pitch he is a tigerish opponent.

His total of 110 tackles in the Premier League this season is second only to Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueye (127), while his figure of 72 interceptions is eclipsed only by Ander Herrera of Manchester United.

Watford captain Troy Deeney recently spoke about what it is like to play against Kante - an insight that perhaps explains why his peers voted him the best of their number.

"Whenever we broke on them last season, I always had the fear factor that Kante was coming back and I knew we didn't have much time before he got there," Deeney said.

"Even if I actually did have time, I always thought he might be there, so I would rush things a bit."

All about Kante
Born: Paris
Age: 26
Height: 5ft 6½in
Club career: Boulogne (2011-13), Caen (2013-15), Leicester (2015-16), Chelsea (2016-)
Honours: 2015-16 Premier League title

Kante only third pick among BBC Sport readers

Kante might be top of the class among his fellow professionals, but he did not quite come out on top among BBC Sport readers, who were recently asked to name their Premier League team of the year.

More than 40,000 teams were selected, with the most popular XI displayed below.

Kante was named in more than 80% of users' teams, but his exploits in the middle of the park for the Premier League leaders were not enough to make him the most selected player overall.

That accolade instead went to Spurs midfielder Alli, followed by Chelsea midfielder Hazard and then Kante.

Two of the nominees for the senior PFA award failed to make the BBC Sport team of the year, with Arsenal forward Sanchez and Manchester United striker Ibrahimovic missing out.

The Premier League team of the year - as vote for by BBC Sport readers

Alli gets young player nod - again

Alli's young player prize is consolation for his omission from the six-man shortlist for the senior award, despite scoring 16 goals from midfield as Spurs have mounted a serious title bid.

The 21-year-old's importance to Tottenham's hopes is underlined by the fact they have scored a goal every 42 minutes with Alli on the field in the Premier League this season, compared to every 83 minutes without him.

He scored eight goals in six Premier League games between 18 December and 21 January, and was named the league's player of the month for January.

The England midfielder also showed his class with a brilliantly taken goal in Spurs' FA Cup semi-final defeat by Chelsea on Saturday.

Alli said of his award: "It's an unbelievable feeling, especially to be voted by the other players as well.

"It's been an unbelievable season for us all. I think we've just got to keep going, keep fighting and keep improving as a team."

Honours for Bronze and Carter

England full-back Bronze, 25, won the PFA Women's Player of the Year award for the second time after being part of the Manchester City squad that won the Women's Super League without losing a single game in 2016.

Bronze said: "As a defender, you don't really get a lot of accolades, but it's a great award to win.

"As a team, we've been very successful, and individuals have performed really well in the team. This award for me is all thanks to the team, because without them, I wouldn't be anywhere near this."

Birmingham midfielder Carter, 19, saw off competition from three Manchester City players to win the Women's Young Player of the Year award.

She started every game in the WSL in 2016 and completed 90 minutes in all but the season-opener at Sunderland.

Lucy Bronze and Jess Carter
Lucy Bronze (left) and Jess Carter. Bronze has won the Women's Super League three times in the last four years, twice with Liverpool and once with Manchester City

Recognition for Beckham

Former Manchester United midfielder Beckham was honoured by his peers in recognition of his stellar career at club and international level.

Beckham, 41, won 115 England caps - captaining his country on 59 occasions - and played for some of the most famous clubs sides in the world.

He scored 85 goals during his time at United, where he also won six Premier League titles and the Champions League. He also won Spain's La Liga during a four seasons at Real Madrid.

Beckham follows former United team-mate Ryan Giggs in winning the Merit prize. He also received the award alongside his 'Class of 92' United team-mates in 2013.

"I dreamed of playing for Manchester United and England my whole young life," Beckham said. "To have represented my country the number of times that I did, and to have been captain as well, that is my proudest thing as a footballer.

"I had 22 years of playing the sport that I never saw as a job. I always saw it as a hobby because I would have done it whether I'd be paid or not. I lived my dream and I had a lot of people to support me."

David Beckham
Beckham was part of Manchester United's treble-winning side of 1999

A 'phenomenal journey' for Smith

England's record goalscorer and former Arsenal forward Smith retired from football at the age of 38 in January.

She scored 46 goals for her country, earned 117 England caps, played in six major tournaments and represented Team GB at the 2012 London Olympics.

"When I started out playing football as a little girl I never imagined me reaching the heights that I have, in my 20-odd-year career," she said.

"It's been a phenomenal journey: lots of highs, lots of lows, but I've really enjoyed every moment of it, and I feel very privileged to be here tonight to pick this up."

Kelly Smith
Smith also won five FA Cups with Arsenal, scoring six goals in those five finals


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