LONDON • Kevin de Bruyne credited the influence of Pep Guardiola after becoming the first Manchester City player to be named the Professional Footballers’ Association’s (PFA) player of the year.
The rest of the PFA team of the year is dominated by Premier League champions Liverpool with five players, while Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford was handed a merit award for his role in fighting against child poverty.
City won the league four times in the past eight seasons but none of their stars claimed the prestigious individual accolade. But after a campaign dominated by Liverpool, de Bruyne, who registered 13 goals and a record-equalling 20 assists, was voted the campaign’s top performer by his peers.
“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,” said the 29-year-old.
“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.”
The Belgium midfielder praised Guardiola’s influence for giving him the freedom to shine.
“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,” he added. “But then on the other side he gives me a lot of freedom… 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.”
Liverpool’s were represented in the team of the year by Jordan Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson, Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane.
Burnley’s goalkeeper Nick Pope, Leicester defender Caglar Soyuncu, David Silva, who left City after 10 seasons at the Etihad, golden boot winner Jamie Vardy and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were also selected.