LONDON (AP) – Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante has been voted the player of the year by his fellow professionals, collecting the award at a ceremony on Sunday that honored David Beckham's contribution to English football.
The 26-year-old Kante has some way to go to match Beckham's six Premier League titles with Manchester United but he is closing in on the rare achievement of collecting England's top prize with two different clubs.
Kante, a 5-foot-6 force in midfield, secured his move to Chelsea last July after his tackles, interceptions and tireless box-to-box running helped 5,000-1 outsider Leicester win the title for the first time. Chelsea has also benefited from Kante running its midfield, with the London side four points out in front with six games remaining.
Chelsea is being pushed for the title by Tottenham, which was also recognized at the Professional Footballers' Association ceremony when Dele Alli won the young player of the year vote for a second straight year.
Alli was a surprise omission from the shortlist for the main award, given the 21-year-old midfielder's 16 goals and five assists in the league alone. That's the most goals for a player who isn't recognized as a forward.
Instead, Kante topped the PFA poll ahead of Chelsea teammate Eden Hazard, the 2015 recipient and a quartet of strikers: Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez, Everton's Romelu Lukaku, Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Tottenham's Harry Kane.
Manchester City's Lucy Bronze topped the voting for women's player of the year for the second time and Birmingham's Jess Carter won the young player accolade.
Beckham won the PFA merit award after a career that saw Beckham represent England 115 times and also win titles with Real Madrid, the Los Angeles Galaxy and Paris Saint-Germain.