LONDON: Kevin De Bruyne has become the first Manchester City man to win the Professional Footballers’ Association’s Player of the Year.
The Belgium playmaker’s award breaks a two-year run of Liverpool winners, with Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah having claimed the prize over the previous two seasons.
City trailed the Reds by an eventual 18 points in the 2019/20 Premier League term but De Bruyne, who registered 13 goals and a record-equalling 20 assists, was voted the campaign’s top performer by his peers and he was quick to thank manager Pep Guardiola for handing him full creative licence.
De Bruyne said: “Most of the time he just lets me be me. We speak often about the team but in a lot of senses he knows when he gives the orders of what the team has to do that I will listen. But then on the other side he gives me a lot of freedom; I don’t know why, that’s just the way it goes between us.
“He knows in one way I will always put the team first and then obviously if I can help myself I’m going to do that. But he knows that I want the team to win, and if the team wins I will gain from it. So I think in that sense he feels fine and he trusts me completely.
“This is a big honour, to be voted by your colleagues, competitors from other teams who you always play against on the field. That they vote for you for best player; it’s amazing.
“It’s maybe strange that I’m the first one at City, seeing all the good players who played there before and who are still playing. But it’s nice to represent the club.”
Last term’s winner Van Dijk was shortlisted again for his exploits in Liverpool’s title-winning 2019/20 campaign, with his Reds team-mates Sadio Mane, Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold also in the running.
De Bruyne pipped all of those to the accolade, however, and also fought off the challenge of his City colleague Raheem Sterling.
Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold scooped the men’s Young Player of the Year award, seeing off Manchester United duo Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount, and Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka.
Alexander-Arnold played a part in 12 clean sheets in Liverpool’s league triumph, and also laid on 13 assists and four goals, continuing to develop his already deadly all-court game.
The 21-year-old warned Liverpool’s rivals that German boss Klopp’s side were nowhere near satisfied with their successes to date.
Marcus Rashford received the PFA Merit Award for combating the problem of school children’s meals support.
The Manchester United striker forced the UK government into a U-turn over its free school meals policy during lockdown, ensuring children in need would receive meals across the summer.
The England forward has since formed a child food poverty task force, linking up with some of the UK’s biggest supermarkets and food brands.
He said: “What we’ve done so far, it’s only a short-term answer. Me and my team behind me are just trying to find plans on how we can help these children for the rest of their childhood really; to find long-term answers to the problem.
“At the moment we don’t have the answers but we’ll do our best to try to find them, and to progress the situation that they are in at the moment the best we can.
“Obviously I was injured during lockdown, and at the beginning I was working towards getting back with the team, but then there were conversations saying there might not be games until September, and when I was sat at home I just needed something to work towards and a goal to achieve.
“That was just something I spoke about with my brothers over the phone and rest of my family, and we just tried to find the best way to help people.
“It’s been a long journey, but I think the first phase was probably the hardest bit, which was learning and self-teaching who were the right people to get in contact with to help these children especially.
“We had the ideas but we didn’t know where to pitch them, or who to pitch them to, so that was probably the most difficult phase of everything really. That was right at the beginning of lockdown.
“This is obviously a huge honour, and for me I just hope it encourages and promotes other players to do things to help as much as they can. I’m very happy, and I’ll definitely continue to do my best to help people.”
Team of the Year
Jordan Henderson leads a five-strong Liverpool contingent in the PFA Premier League team of the year.
Captain Henderson steered the Reds to their first top-flight title in 30 years as boss Jurgen Klopp’s men racked up a mammoth 99 points over the 2019/20 term – some 18 more than closest challengers Manchester City.
England midfielder Henderson scooped the Football Writers’ Association’s player of the year award, and has followed that up with inclusion in the all-star XI selected by his Premier League peers.
Marauding full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson, talismanic centre-back Virgil van Dijk and flying forward Sadio Mane complete the heavy Anfield influence on the team of the 2019/20 season.
There was no place, however, for either their goalkeeper Alisson, or striker Mo Salah.
Manchester City’s Ederson claimed the golden glove award for the most clean sheets with 16, but Burnley’s Nick Pope got the players’ vote between the posts.
Pope pulled off a robust return of 15 clean sheets in a stellar campaign for Sean Dyche’s side.
Leicester defender Caglar Soyuncu’s fine form in helping the Foxes to a fifth-place finish saw him win a place in the XI’s back four, with Manchester City duo David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne slotting into midfield alongside Henderson.
Jamie Vardy scooped the Premier League golden boot with 23 goals, and the Leicester forward was duly voted into a three-man forward line.
Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang completes the striking department having registered 22 league goals for the Gunners.
Premier League team of the year: Nick Pope (Burnley), Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil Van Dijk (both Liverpool), Caglar Soyuncu (Leicester), Andrew Robertson (Liverpool), David Silva (Manchester City), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Jamie Vardy (Leicester), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal), Sadio Mane (Liverpool).
Championship team of the year: Brice Samba (Nottingham Forest), Luke Ayling, Ben White, Liam Cooper (all Leeds), Joe Bryan (Fulham), Eberechi Eze (QPR), Kalvin Phillips (Leeds), Romaine Sawyers (West Brom), Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham), Ollie Watkins, Said Benrahma (both Brentford).
League One team of the year: Marko Marosi, Fankaty Dabo (both Coventry), Michael Ihiekwe (Rotherham), Robert Dickie (Oxford), Joe Jacobsen (Wycombe), Cameron Brannagan (Oxford), Liam Walsh (Coventry), Matt Crooks (Rotherham), Armand Gnanduillet (Blackpool), Ivan Toney (Peterborough), Matt Godden (Coventry).
League Two team of the year: Alex Palmer (Plymouth), Perry Ng (Crewe), Ben Tozer (Cheltenham), Charlie Goode (Northampton), Randell Williams (Exeter), Antoni Sarcevic, Danny Mayor (both Plymouth), Nicky Adams (Northampton), Charlie Kirk (Crewe), Eoin Doyle, Jerry Yates (both Swindon).