N’Golo Kante’s dynamic performances for double chasing Chelsea received the ultimate accolade from his peers on Sunday, the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) Player of the Year award.
The 26-year-old French midfielder saw off the likes of Tottenham striker Harry Kane and Everton’s marksman Romelu Lukaku for the prestigious award.
It may well not be the last piece of silverware he lifts this season as unlike his former team-mates at Leicester — for whom he was the driving force of a stunning title success last year — he stands on the brink of becoming the first player to win successive league titles with different clubs.
“To be chosen by the players to be player of the year means a lot to me,” said Kante.
“It means the world to be chosen and it’s been two beautiful seasons, one with Leicester, and we are in good form with Chelsea. To be player of the year, it’s a great honour.”
Kante, who also faces an FA Cup final date against Arsenal, said Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, like Leicester’s title winning manager Claudio Ranieri an Italian, had instilled a winning mentality into the players.
“He knows what he wants from the players,” said Kante.
“He wants to win, and we work very, very, very hard in training for him. He put a winning mentality into the squad, and everyone wants to give their best for the team, and to make Chelsea win titles.”
Kante, who had a modest playing career in France with Boulogne and then Caen, said the award will not go to his head as he acknowledges they face a tough battle to win either the league or the Cup — Spurs are just four points behind them in the title race and Arsenal will be desperate to rescue a poor season with a trophy.
“We’re going to fight for both competitions,” said Kante.
“The cup is just one game, and the league six games, and we’re going to give our best to win these two competitions.”
Kante’s performances this season has had former players eulogising about his ability especially after he totally overshadowed his compatriot and the world’s most expensive player Paul Pogba in the 1-0 win over Manchester United in March.
“I’d go as far to say that he’s (Kante) the best central midfield player in the world on current form,” former England and Chelsea great Frank Lampard told the BBC.
“Looking at the way he’s performing this year, he may not be scoring lots of goals but what he’s giving to the team in the way he’s playing, the driving force that he is, I cannot see anyone else out there in world football better than him at the moment.”
Former Barcelona and England striker Gary Lineker said he had the potential to be the greatest midfielder of all time if he corrected one facet of his game.
“Bloody hell, if Kante starts scoring goals as well he’ll become the best midfield player ever,” tweeted Lineker
Tottenham Hotspur — who would relish the title even more after being beaten 4-2 by Chelsea in their FA Cup semi-final on Saturday — didn’t go away empty-handed.
Their goalscoring midfielder English international Dele Alli, whom many thought should have been a contender for the senior award, won the young player of the year award for the second successive year.
Other winners included Manchester City’s Lucy Bronze who was the women’s player of the year for a second occasion having won it in 2014. Birmingham City’s Jess Carter won the young player of the year award.
English football icon Davd Beckham followed among another former Manchester United team-mate Ryan Giggs in receiving the PFA’s Merit award for his contribution to the game.