It’s been a season to remember, with Leicester City astounding the football world by winning the Premier League.
As ever, there have been some stand-out performances throughout the season, which has made picking my team of the season an incredibly tough task.
But here’s my final selection:
Goalkeeper – David de Gea (Manchester United)
There have been some notable performances between the sticks by a number of goalkeepers this season. Kasper Schmeichel springs to mind, for the part he played in Leicester City’s title-winning season, as does Joe Hart, who produced the occasional epic performance, without which Manchester City would never have got to the Champions League semi-finals.
However neither goalkeeper has been as consistently brilliant as David de Gea. The Spain international was caught up in an unseemly transfer saga, which ended with a proposed move to Real Madrid falling through. His enforced absence cost United dearly in the early part of the season.
However when he returned, he was subjected to the kind of defensive lapses in front of him more consistent with a team fighting relegation than challenging for the title.
Nevertheless, De Gea refused to let that affect his high standard of goalkeeping, leaving manager Louis van Gaal with a gentle reminder that it is no use having the best goalkeeper in the world if you don’t have defenders who can defend.
This sad but true fact has ultimately cost Manchester United a Champions League spot and left the door wide open once again for Real to take the goalkeeper home to Madrid after all.
Defender – Danny Simpson (Leicester City)
What a season this lad has had. I have gone on record to say that I think Danny Simpson is the Premier League’s most improved defender. I have admired his energy, enthusiasm and all-round contribution to a title-winning Leicester City team.
Simpson has played for a number of clubs during his career but none have suited his strengths more than Leicester. He’s always struck me as a player who takes great delight in making physical contact with his opponent, which probably accounts for his bookings this season.
Nevertheless, he and his team mates have been ‘shameless’ when it has come to defending Kasper Schmeichel in goal. And it is that attitude that has won him and his team the title.
Defender – Wes Morgan (Leicester City)
I don’t think there is a player in the Premier League who deserves his championship medal more. The Jamaica international has shown the most extraordinary leadership qualities I have seen from a captain in years.
Wes Morgan makes no apology for his lack of flair or technical ability but what he has shown this season is a calm dignity and the kind of understanding that normally comes with previous successes. Yet in the absence of that experience, he has conducted himself and his team in an impeccable manner.
He now has the evidence to prove he knows what it takes to lead a team to victory. This has been an astonishing season and Morgan has been equal to it in every way imaginable. The big question now is: Can he and this Leicester team-mates hold it together?
Defender – Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham Hotspur)
Toby Alderweireld has had a magnificent season. The way he has performed for Spurs this season has been exemplary and matched only by his conduct.
The Belgium international seldom gets flustered and his cool demeanour is often the standout feature in the Tottenham back four. Spurs need more defenders like Alderweireld and fewer ‘hot heads’ when the pressure rises in the games that matter.
Alderweireld is a player Mauricio Pochettino can build a team around and an absolute must for next season if Tottenham are to be taken seriously in the red-hot atmosphere of the Champions League.
Defender – Ryan Bertrand (Southampton)
The best thing Ryan Bertrand did was to leave Chelsea but not before he gleaned every ounce of football ingenuity from his mentor, Ashley Cole. If you’re going to stick around a football club when it’s clear you are struggling to get a run of games then I suppose you do it because you are learning from the best full-back in the world.
Is it any wonder then that Ryan Bertrand is starting to look more like Ashley Cole the more I see him? Not merely in stature or his pace (which is rapid) but the way in which he support his forwards in attack and his instincts for spotting the danger.
Bertrand has had an excellent season with Southampton and is a player Roy Hodgson should be taking to the European championships in June.
Midfielder – N’Golo Kante (Leicester City)
I have almost run out of superlatives to express my admiration for this young man. The way he goes about his work must be a manager’s dream.
He never comments on a decision or foul whether they are for or against him. He works harder than anyone else, runs further than anyone else, and epitomises all the values in the game that normally cost a king’s ransom.
Of all of Leicester’s successes this season, there has been none quiet like him and that is why it is almost certain that clubs such as Paris St-Germain, Manchester City or even Real Madrid may be knocking on Claudio Ranieri’s door this summer in an attempt to acquire his services.
And it is precisely why France manager Didier Deschamps has selected Kante for his European Championship squad in June. Given the season Kante’s had, it would not surprise me if he won that as well.
Midfielder – Dimitri Payet (West Ham)
Every so often, the Premier League throws up a player with such immense talent that whenever he touches the ball, the expectation of the fan immediately rises – whoever he or she supports. Occasionally, the league gives us a player who can make a defence descend into abject panic when a free-kick is given on the edge of the penalty area.
Both are true whenever Dimitri Payet is within striking distance of the goal. The Frenchman possess a masterful first touch and the ability to score goals from almost any position in and around the box – hence the panic.
Payet has transformed West Ham’s season and provides the finishing touches to the enterprise and endeavour often provided by Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate. I can’t wait to see Payet at the Olympic Stadium. Like all big names, the bigger the stage, the better they seem to perform.
Midfielder – Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)
Steven Gerrard often made my team of the season and largely without any objections. Since his departure to LA Galaxy, Gerrard’s role in the Liverpool set up – and my team of the season – has been taken by Philippe Coutinho.
The Brazilian has been amazing for Liverpool this season. His effervescence, not to mention his wonder goals, have been a feature of Liverpool’s performances. Against the odds, Liverpool have reached the Europa League final, largely thanks to Coutinho’s efforts, and the fact that Jurgen Klopp was one of the few managers in England who took the competition seriously.
What a turn up for the books it would be if Liverpool were to win the Europa League trophy simply because nothing else seemed winnable at the time. However, if anyone can stop Sevilla from winning the Europa League for the third consecutive season, Philippe Coutinho can.
Midfielder – Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City)
When you win the PFA Player of the Year award, it normally tells you how good a season an individual has had. However, in Riyad Mahrez’s case it doesn’t quite do justice to his achievements.
This is a player who had gone from zero to hero in a matter of months. How someone would translate that in monetary terms is hard to calculate but I suspect the Leicester City board are having a very good go at it right now!
Mahrez cost Leicester City £400,000 and in today’s market you would be insulting Leicester City if an offer came in for less that £20m. The contrast between the player who started the season and the one who finished it is mind-blowing. Yet the form he has produced would be worth every penny of his new price tag.
I hope Mahrez accepts Claudio Ranieri’s offer to stay with Leicester for one more year. You get the feeling he wouldn’t get the love and attention elsewhere that he gets from Ranieri and the Leicester City set-up. These features are exceptionally important when your stock rises so suddenly – people expect more for their money.
Forward – Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Last week when Manchester City failed to beat Arsenal, I thought Sergio Aguero was gone. It was just as well West Ham did them a monumental favour by beating their rivals and neighbours Manchester United and – in so doing – left the door ajar for City to clinch a Champions League spot.
That’s how close I believe City were to losing their most prolific striker of all time. Aguero has scored more than 25 goals in four of the five seasons he’s been at City.
Quite where Manchester City would be without him I can’t imagine, but one thing is for certain: he is a world-class striker and that’s why he’s in my team of the season.
Forward – Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
At the start of the campaign, I was concerned that Harry Kane might be suffering from second season syndrome. Which, in short, is an acute anxiety attack when a striker realises he’s gone way beyond his own level of expectations.
After a shaky start, the Spurs striker has once again been immense, not just in front of goal but in the way he has conducted himself throughout the season. He may not be the captain of the team but he certainly appears to be the leader of a young aspiring group with so much potential.
To win the Golden Boot award is a fitting tribute to the player’s efforts. To win a Champions League spot is something entirely different. What a pity they lacked the courage to finish runners-up in the Premier League.