The Football Writers’ Association will announce the 2017 Footballer of the Year on Monday – and Chelsea manager Antonio Conte believes one of his players would be a deserved choice.
The prestigious FWA accolade was first presented in 1948 to Stanley Matthews and is decided from a vote of the association’s now 340-strong membership.
The league champions have often seen one of their key men named as the recipient, with Leicester forward Jamie Vardy topping the 2016 poll of journalists while Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard was Footballer of the Year two seasons ago.
The Belgian could well feature among the writers’ vote again, while Blues’ midfield enforcer N’Golo Kante is another contender having last month collected the Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year trophy.
France international Kante, 26, drove former club Leicester to a shock title triumph last season and has again produced consistent performances at the heart of Chelsea’s engine room following his Â£30million summer switch.
Tottenham, meanwhile, have chased Conte’s side this season, with England duo Harry Kane and Dele Alli among other candidates likely to pick up nominations for the FWA prize.
Blues boss Conte, however, feels the award would be merited to come from within his squad, who are now just two victories away from securing the championship.
“I think this is a great achievement for N’Golo and also for Eden (to be among the contenders), because I think they are having a really good season,” the Italian said.
“But I also believe there are many (Chelsea) players who deserve to be in this group who try to win the best footballer of the year.”
Following Tottenham’s defeat at West Ham on Friday night, Chelsea remain four points clear at the top of the Premier League ahead of their match at relegation-battlers Middlesbrough on Monday evening.
Should Conte’s men win at the Riverside Stadium, they could then deliver the Premier League title when away to West Brom on May 12.
Boro head coach Steve Agnew is in no doubt of the qualities Kante brings to Chelsea’s team.
“Kante has been absolutely top class. He is the one player who knits it all together – he did it for Leicester last season,” said Agnew.
“He has had an excellent season – well, Kante has had two seasons where he has been different class.”
The FWA will honour the 2017 Footballer of the Year at a gala dinner in London on May 18, which will also mark the 70th anniversary of the association.