PFA Player of the Year: BBC pundits pick Premier League’s best player of 2019-20

An extraordinary Premier League season is finally over but who was the standout individual performer over the past 12 months?

A total of 515 players have featured in the top flight during the extended 2019-20 campaign but only one will be named the Professional Footballers’ Association’s Player of the Year.

Which man deserves that accolade? Twenty-four BBC pundits have made their choice, and four names are mentioned – Manchester City star Kevin de Bruyne and Liverpool trio Jordan Henderson, Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk, who was last year’s winner.

Scroll down to find out who they have picked as their best player, and vote for your choice here.

If you are viewing this page on the BBC News app please click here to vote.

1. Alan Shearer: Jordan Henderson (Henderson’s 1st vote)

Match of the Day: Alan Shearer & Micah Richards’ discuss player of the year

The three favourites would be De Bruyne, Henderson and Mane – and it is Henderson for me. I picked him because the way he has led that Liverpool team this season has been magnificent.

2. Ian Wright: Kevin de Bruyne (1)

Kevin de Bruyne has created the most chances of any player in Europe’s big five leagues in 2019-20. On average, he made a chance every 21 minutes, which also gave him the best minutes-per-chance ratio. Since that statistic was first measured in 2006-07, only Dimitri Payet has had a better ratio, when he made a chance every 19 minutes for Marseille in Ligue 1 in 2017-18.

In a season in which his club haven’t won the league title, it speaks volumes that De Bruyne is still top of my mind when it comes to thinking about the PFA Player of the Year award. He is an elite footballer who is playing to the highest level – and that ceiling doesn’t look like it has yet been reached.

De Bruyne takes complete control of the game around him, plays it at his own pace and dictates the Manchester City rhythm and tempo.

Look at the stats – he is the best creator of chances in Europe. He’s a player team-mates love to play with for his ability to provide chances and bring others into play, and he scores some great goals himself too.

I’d love to have played with him. The way he sees the game is different. He’s had a brilliant season with 13 goals and 20 assists in 35 league appearances. Scores, creates and his set-piece delivery is brilliant too – he can do everything.

3. Danny Murphy: Sadio Mane (1)

Sadio Mane’s 18 Premier League goals for Liverpool in 2019-20 have earned his side 18 points – only Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (20) and Raul Jimenez of Wolves (19) have won more points with their goals this season

Henderson deserves it for what he has done in so many respects; he is Liverpool’s captain, and is a leader on and off the pitch.

But, in the games I have watched – and I have watched a lot of them – there have been so many occasions where Sadio has been the game-changer, and the match-winner, not just with his goals but also by creating chances and problems for the opposition.

His work ethic, and the tireless pressing and running back that he does, is just remarkable considering he puts so much in going forward – and it’s his all-round game that has so often been the trigger for Liverpool’s success.

4. Ruud Gullit: Virgil van Dijk (1)

Virgil van Dijk pictured with Vivianne Miedema after the Dutch pair won the PFA’s men’s and women’s Player of the Year awards last year. Van Dijk was the first defender to win the men’s award since Chelsea’s John Terry in 2004-05.

He is still the most important player in this Liverpool side.

Having a strong defence always means at least not losing, and the attack also starts there. If you have no good defenders who can play, then you cannot attack.

5. Leon Osman: Kevin de Brune (2)

I had this debate last season – does the standout player deserve this award, or is it one of the team that wins the title?

Last season, City won the domestic treble but Van Dijk was the winner, voted before Liverpool lifted the Champions League trophy. Following that thinking, I am going with De Bruyne this time.

Kevin de Bruyne made 20 Premier League assists in 2019-20, equalling the record set by Arsenal’s Thierry Henry in 2002-03 for the most in a single season

He is a ridiculously good player and he has had an incredible season – his stats put him above the rest and he is a player you gladly pay money to watch.

Liverpool were a juggernaut in the league but it’s tough to say one of their players stood head and shoulders above the rest, while De Bruyne did.

If City can claim the Champions League next month, it’s a no-brainer.

6. Matt Upson: Sadio Mane (2)

For his consistency, his energy and his relentlessness, Mane gets my vote. He is constantly applying pressure to his opponent and he has produced pieces of real quality too.

Out of possession, he is brilliant and he embodies Liverpool’s whole ethos with his pressing, and then he is so deadly in front of goal too.

I think there is a spread in the vote for the Liverpool players because you can take your pick from which attributes impress you the most.

But the fact their three leading candidates play in defence, midfield and attack show how strong they have been in every area this season.

7. Alex Scott: Jordan Henderson (2)

It is hard to decide this year but, in a team where there are so many big names around him that often take the limelight, Henderson has been a driving force. His hard work has allowed those superstars to shine.

Liverpool 5-3 Chelsea: Henderson on ‘amazing feeling’ of lifting Premier League trophy

When you consider what he has had to come through, with people doubting whether he can be a leader, and whether he should even play for Liverpool or England, for him to have been such a key part of a title-winning team is extraordinary.

8. Chris Sutton: Virgil van Dijk (2)

De Bruyne is the standout players in terms of talent but Van Dijk gets my vote because he has the greatest influence on the team that has run away with the title.

When it mattered, Van Dijk was once again the leader at the back.

The biggest point about him and Liverpool, though, is that if you take him out of that team then they are seriously going to miss him. You could take virtually anyone else out and it would not be the case.

9. Rob Green: Jordan Henderson (3)

De Bruyne gets an honourable mention because he is a brilliant talent but, as a professional, what you don’t see from the outside is the people who make the dressing room tick, and keep the team driving forward.

Henderson has done that with a team that didn’t stop until they won the league.

Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson on how manager Jurgen Klopp celebrated with his players

It has been a long road for him and he has had to win a lot of people over – even now he still gets that flak occasionally where people question his merits.

But, having worked with him for England and knowing him on a bit more of a personal level, I know his drive and focus. He doesn’t drink alcohol, he doesn’t eat bad food – he never has a day off.

That transfers over into the way Liverpool were this season until the title was won because, as a team, they never had a day off either.

10. Michael Brown: Kevin de Bruyne (3)

He has been on another level. His stats are incredible and so is his all-round play. He has done it when it’s mattered too, like in the win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

De Bruyne has taken on the role of being the leader at City and is still improving himself. He is right at the top of his game, and is playing with unbelievable confidence.

Football Focus: Phil Foden hails Man City’s ‘perfect balance’ of Silva & De Bruyne

11. Mark Schwarzer: Jordan Henderson (4)

Henderson defines Liverpool as a club with his heart and determination – he has achieved against all the odds and proved all the critics wrong.

He is an exceptional leader and has had an exceptional season.

12. Philip Neville: Kevin de Bruyne (4)

De Bruyne has been the standout player with his passing range with both feet, and his vision – he has the ability in the final third to see and play the killer pass. Then you look at his assists and goals.

13. Joleon Lescott: Sadio Mane (3)

Sticking with my theory that the the winner of the best player award should play for the title-winning team I would say Mane.

Other than that I would definitely highlight Southampton striker Danny Ings and the amazing season he’s had.

I just want to win the Premier League – Mane speaks to BBC World Service

14. Mark Lawrenson: Virgil van Dijk (3)

It has got to be a Liverpool player because of the season they have had and I am going to go with Van Dijk, with a big mention for Henderson, who has won over a huge swathe of fans with his performances and leadership.

But the bottom line is that Van Dijk has played in every single league game and I don’t think they would have won the title without him.

With 33 goals conceded in 38 games, Liverpool had the best defensive record in the Premier League this season

His presence gives confidence to everyone who plays around him – he has played with four different centre-backs this season and it hasn’t mattered, because of how good he is.

Look at how City have struggled at the back and that tells you a lot. There is not much between the two teams going forward and, if City had Van Dijk, they would have won the league.

15. Micah Richards: Kevin de Bruyne (5)

Henderson and Mane deserve recognition for the part they’ve played in leading Liverpool to the title – Henderson for his leadership and Mane because he has scored important goals.

But De Bruyne has been the best player this season, which is why he gets my vote.

Manchester City were top scorers in the Premier League this season with 102 goals from 38 games. With 13 goals and 20 assists, De Bruyne was involved in 33 of them – the most of any Premier League player in 2019-20.

16. Karen Carney: Jordan Henderson (5)

De Bruyne has been magnificent but I look at the impact that Henderson has had on his team.

Without him, Liverpool struggle a little bit. You hear about how he is in the dressing room and how he would call people out. He has high standards and isn’t afraid to tell people what needs to be said.

In terms of leadership, he is unbelievable. There are some players where people just don’t see what they bring collectively to the table. He brings so much.

Liverpool with and without Henderson in the PL 2019-20
With Without
30 Games 8
27 Wins 5
2 Draws 1
1 Losses 2
2.2 Av. goals for 2.25
0.6 Av. goals against 1.75
90 Win % 63%
2.8 Points per game 2

De Bruyne has got quicker, stronger and more powerful but Henderson’s not just in the Liverpool team because he’s a runner. He’s got a lot of characteristics that fit the style Liverpool play – he is a very good footballer too.

17. Chris Waddle: Kevin de Bruyne (6)

The hardest part of football is to create, and he does it the best.

The making of Belgium’s De Bruyne

18. Rachel Brown-Finnis: Jordan Henderson (6)

He arrived at Anfield aged 20 in 2011 with a ‘work in progress’ sign around his neck but he never doubted himself.

It feels like he has always had the confidence to keep pushing himself and those around him, while being an understated player.

He’s been absolutely critical in what Liverpool have done because when new players have arrived, like Van Dijk and Alisson, who have given them the lift in quality they needed, he has been able to establish to them what is expected in terms of their focus too.

19. Pat Nevin: Kevin de Bruyne (7)

He is still the guy most likely to make me go “wow” and has done so many times this season. I am openly biased because he is precisely the type of player I love to watch.

City without him playing are a much less impressive outfit, which says a lot.

20. Stephen Warnock: Jordan Henderson (7)

I narrowed it down to Mane, who has been unbelievable, and Henderson but with Henderson missing the end of the season through injury I think you can see just how important he is to this Liverpool team.

With Jordan Henderson in the side, Liverpool did not lose a single game in the Premier League this season until they had secured the title. Their only defeat when he played came against Manchester City on 2 July.

Henderson has been instrumental in everything they have done this season and his leadership qualities have made the difference on so many occasions.

What I love about him having watched him a lot is that, even when Liverpool are winning games, he has got this mentality now where he will not allow anyone’s standards to drop.

He is not afraid to have a go at any of his team-mates at any point, and they don’t answer him back now. They have got so much respect for him that they listen intently.

His own personal performances have improved too and it is no coincidence that has come from him moving from the deep-lying midfield role that Fabinho now occupies to being the wider of the three on the right.

The story is that happened because he went to see Klopp and told him he was better suited in that position, which can’t have been an easy thing to do either, but the move has been massive for him.

21. Martin Keown: Virgil van Dijk (4)

I 100% endorse that Henderson is the Footballer of the Year, because that is a slightly different award – the football writers are encouraged to take into account things that happen away from the field.

But the player of the year for me is Van Dijk, for everything he has done and brings to that Liverpool team. His pace, his stature, and how commanding he is in the air.

I watched him closely at Celtic and Southampton and I think he reached a point in his career where he matured. He had the ability and the desire and there was a feeling of “now we win things”. He has taken that next step and when I watch him play, as a former centre-half myself, I think he is almost perfect.

Out of 180 players with 200+ duels in the Premier League this season, Van Dijk has the highest success rate – winning 232/311. The next best is James Tarkowski of Burnley (299/440 so 68%). Van Dijk also has won the highest percentage of aerial duals – out of 45 players who have competed for 150+ balls in the air, he has won 76% (184/243).

22. Lindsay Johnson: Jordan Henderson (8)

It’s because of his determination on and off the pitch. A true professional, he has been instrumental in Liverpool’s momentum.

23. Tim Cahill: Kevin de Bruyne (8)

The maturity Jordan has shown as a leader, and for that football club, you can’t put a price on it.

De Bruyne is my pick but that’s pure football.

24. Jermaine Jenas: Kevin de Bruyne (9)

De Bruyne has been head and shoulders above any other player in the league, with the consistency of his performances, how dangerous he is and how he dictates games with his quality.

He does things that just amaze me, every time I watch him. He has still got the ability to go and win the Champions League for City this season and when he plays like he did at the Bernabeu, they have every chance.

That game against Real made me realise how good he is. Everyone knows he is a world-class player but it is about time now we started putting him right up there with the very best, like we did with Luka Modric or we used to with Andres Iniesta and Xavi. He is a different sort of player, but he is one of them – he is that good.

And the winner is… Kevin de Bruyne

Will the Premier League players agree with our pundits though?

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