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Kante Can Kane The Layers
The PFA Player of the Year Awards offer the chance for football’s finest to swap their boots for black ties. We are a long way from seeing the Premier League’s finest don their tuxedos for the bash in London in late April, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity for punters to steal a march on the bookmakers.
In fact, if recent history is to be believed, now is the time to squeeze the last bit of value out of a market that’s already fluctuated wildly.
Volatile Early Market
At the start of the season Sergio Aguero was the 6/1 favourite to win the award, now the Manchester City striker trades at triple figure odds. But as the campaign moves into spring, the bookmakers rarely get it wrong. In each of the last seven years, the nominee chalked up as the favourite by the layers has gone on to receive the gong that most players rank above all others, as it’s voted for by their fellow professionals.
You have to go back to Ryan Giggs’ win in 2009 for the last time a market leader didn’t collect the award. Then, the Welshman was an 11/2 shot and overturned teammate Nemanja Vidic, who traded at 11/10, with Stephen Gerrard also shorter in the betting at 11/8. Giggs’ win wasn’t without some bookmakers getting stung, as one high street firm reported some four-figure bets on the 13-time title winner the night before the awards ceremony, implying the result was already known to some punters.
Since then, seven odds-on jollies have won, including Luis Suarez at a pretty much unbackable 1/14 in 2014, Eden Hazard at 1/6 in 2015 and 2/5 shot Riyad Mahrez last year. Even Gareth Bale went off the wrong side of even money for his two wins since the turn of the last decade.
Technically, any player could still claim the prize – the shortlisted six aren’t announced until April – so, as it stands, we’re going to concentrate on the half dozen currently at the top of the ante-post market on Grosvenor Sport, of which I’m sure the winner will come.
Top Six In The PFA Betting
N’Golo Kante was nominated last year and opened up at 33/1 when the shortlist was announced, well behind Leicester city teammates Riyad Mahrez (2/5) and Jamie Vardy (9/4). His stock has risen considerably since his move to Chelsea, with many pundits suggesting he is the main reason behind Antonio Conte’s team rise to the summit of the Premier League.
Eden Hazard is second in the betting at 11/4 and has, of course, won the award before (2015). The Belgian had previously made the shortlist twice when a 12/1 shot behind Luis Suarez in 2014 and a rank outsider at 100/1 when Gareth Bale won in 2013. Desperately poor in the 2015/16 season, when he didn’t score a league goal until April, he’s rediscovered his touch this campaign.
Diego Costa is surprisingly third in the market at 9/1 – much shorter than the 40/1 on offer when he was nominated in his first season in English football. Then, he scored 20 league goals as Chelsea powered to the title under Jose Mourinho, and while he is on course to better that this term, the odd sulk or two from the Spanish international has hardly endeared him to his fellow professionals.
Alexis Sanchez has been described as Arsenal’s only world class player, and is likely to be the only Gunner to be nominated. At 12/1, the Chilean is bidding to become only the second South American to win the award (behind 2014 winner Luis Suarez), but even though he had been involved in 35 league goals in his last 36 games at time of writing (24 goals 11 assists), his club’s failure to challenge for the title surely counts against him.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has won the French and Italian player of the year awards and, while his price has barely shifted throughout a consistent campaign for Manchester United, his ego might turn off some at the ballot box. Still, at 14/1, there’ll be a few backers of the confident Swede to claim the award, especially as foreign superstar strikers (Henry, Van Persie, Ronaldo etc) have a terrific record in picking up this gong.
Dele Alli won the PFA Young Player of the Year award last year and while there’s a history of players winning the senior gong 12 months later (Hazard, Ronaldo and Rush), it’s more likely he’ll claim back to back honours in the junior category. The Tottenham midfielder is 13/20 to win Young POY (his Spurs partner, Harry Kane, is next at 9/2) and 16/1 for the main prize.
However, unless his team-mates can help push for the championship, the top award looks beyond him.
Kante just has to be backed at current odds. Unbelievably, the French midfielder was a 33/1 shot at the start of the season. However, his price has steadily tumbled through the fractions and, if (when!) he makes the shortlist, there is every chance he will trade at odds-on.
When you have so much influence for two different clubs in two (probably) title winning teams, it’s inconceivable that some individual awards will not come your way. The only slight worry is his position.
Few defensive midfielders have been PFA Player of the Year – with only Roy Keane (2000 winner) and Peter Reid (1985) vaguely similar in their style (and that’s pushing it) – but Kante can buck the trend and capture the honour.