PFA Players' Player of the Year: Ranking the Past Winners of the Award

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistApril 18, 2014

PFA Players' Player of the Year: Ranking the Past Winners of the Award

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    The nominations for the PFA Players' Player of the Year award for the 2013-14 Premier League season are shortly to be announced, with the likes of Luis Suarez of Liverpool and Eden Hazard of Chelsea expected to be in the running.

    They will join the ranks of names awarded this top honour over the past four decades, including the likes of greats Peter Shilton, Kenny Dalglish, Gary Lineker and David Platt, and more recently Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.

    Here we've attempted to put in order the achievements of each of the past winners to crown one the most worthy all-time winner of the award.

Ranking Criteria

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    Clearly only winners from each of the 40 seasons since the award were introduced are included, not runners-up from a particularly strong year or other worthy candidates.

    Of course, comparing players from different eras is entirely subjective and difficult to do in any case, so we take an overall look at what their respective teams achieved with them, as well as their own contributions to the cause.

    Even so, subjectivity and—particularly with those from the last couple of decades—memories of matches in which they played are an inevitable part of the ranking system.

    Above all, the ranking is determined by clubs' and players' achievements in the season they won the award, not overall, at the peak of their powers or by combining longer-running periods of impressive form.

40. Colin Todd, 1974-75

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    Derby County's Colin Todd won the second Player of the Year award, in 1975, four years after he joined the club for a then-record fee in Britain.

    A centre-back who was regarded as being good in possession as well as with his defensive duties, Todd played under Brian Clough as Derby won the First Division that season.

    Todd also won the Charity Shield in the same year at the beginning of the next season.

39. Clive Allen, 1986-87

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    Clive Allen broke a four-year long reign of Liverpool and Everton players winning the PFA Player of the Year award when he won it in 1987, also claiming the FWA award at the same time.

    Tottenham managed to finish third in the table that season, with Allen's huge goal haul for the campaign a big reason they did so well.

    The forward hit 33 league goals that campaign—49 in all competitions—in what was his most successful campaign in front of goal.

38. Mark Hughes, 1990-91

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    In 1990-91, Mark Hughes made history by becoming the first player ever to win the PFA Players' Player of the Year award twice, having won it two seasons earlier also.

    Alongside 10 league goals as Manchester United finished sixth, Hughes netted consistently in cup competitions to total 21 for the campaign in all competitions—with two goals meriting particular mention as they clinched the Cup Winners' Cup for the team in a 2-1 final win over Barcelona.

37. Pat Jennings, 1975-76

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    Pat Jennings, in the green shirt, was Spurs' goalkeeper
    Pat Jennings, in the green shirt, was Spurs' goalkeeperAssociated Press

    The very first goalkeeper to win the Player of the Year award, Pat Jennings was one of the greatest goalkeepers Britain had seen as he starred for Arsenal, Tottenham and Northern Ireland.

    He was also the first player to win the award without winning the league title with his club in the same season.

    He won the award in 1976, shortly before he left Spurs for their rivals, in a campaign where Spurs finished ninth in the table, conceding 63 in 42 games.

36. Ryan Giggs, 2008-09

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    Ryan Giggs won the PFA Players' Player of the Year award in 2009, a third consecutive award to a Manchester United player at the time. Despite being 35 years old that season, he remained a first-team player for the side which went on to win the Premier League.

    Giggs operated often that season from a central-midfield role, helping his side control games with his composure and intelligence on the ball and his indefatigable physical levels.

    However, he only played 12 90-minute games all season, regularly being subbed off around the 60-70-minute mark.

35. Les Ferdinand, 1995-96

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    Les Ferdinand was a beastly, burly striker who thrived in the aerial battle but could also offer powerful shots from range on the deck.

    His best club form certainly came at Newcastle United, where he won the Player of the Year award in 1996 after a 25-goal season in his debut campaign at the club.

    His goals helped the team to second place in the league table, where they also finished the following season.

34. Mark Hughes, 1988-89

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    Mark Hughes didn't come close to winning the title in 1989 as his Manchester United team finished 11th in the table, but he was still voted the Player of the Year after a great personal season, the first United player to win the award.

    The Welsh forward only returned to English football that season, a club-record buy for his second stint at the team, and he scored 14 times in 38 games for a club which went as high as third in mid-February in a season full of erratic form.

    Fearless, powerful and spectacular, Hughes was a brute of a goalscorer with more than enough class and panache about his play to make him one of the top forwards in the game heading into the 1990s.

33. Gareth Bale, 2010-11

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    Gareth Bale only really established himself as a regular starter for Tottenham in the 2010-11 season, but by the end of it he was firmly appreciated as their star player.

    His emergence as a flying winger, capable of beating full-backs with his searing pace and dribbling ability, saw him rapidly considered one of the biggest attacking talents in the division, while a once-again exposed ability to shoot from range saw his goal tally soar.

    Bale scored 11 in all competitions, including a hat-trick against Inter Milan. Spurs ended the season in fifth place.

32. Paul McGrath, 1992-93

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    The first Premier League season saw Paul McGrath win the Player of the Year award, with the central defender becoming only the second Irish player to claim the honour.

    Despite long-term injury problems, McGrath was still performing to a high level as he led Aston Villa to second in the league, with the third-best defensive record in the top flight.

    A great reader of the game who could play out into midfield with ease, McGrath was 33 when he won the award.

31. Andy Gray, 1976-77

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    Andy Gray become the first forward to win the PFA Player of the Year award when he scooped the prize in 1977.

    The Aston Villa forward finished the season as joint-top scorer, hitting 25 goals in the First Division, while he also won the League Cup final with his side. Gray's goals fired Villa to a top-four finish, six points off the league winners.

    A forward noted for his movement and finishing ability, Gray later played for Everton, Wolves and Rangers.

    Gray also won the Young Player of the Year version of the award the same year—the first time any player managed it.

30. Liam Brady, 1978-79

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    Arsenal's Liam Brady was recognised as one of the best midfield talents of the '70s and '80s, noted for his goalscoring feats as well as his skill on the ball. He also later played in Italy with the likes of Juventus and Sampdoria.

    In '79, Arsenal finished seventh in the league table, though his exploits also helped Arsenal to the FA Cup final, which they won.

    Brady became the first non-British player to win the Player of the Year award, hailing from Ireland, who he represented more than 70 times.

29. Peter Shilton, 1977-78

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    Peter Shilton was one of England's finest all-time goalkeepers, winning 125 caps and starring for the likes of Leicester City, Stoke City and Derby County during his career, while his award-winning season in '78 came while he played for Nottingham Forest.

    As reliable as they came, he was a huge presence in goal for Forest, strong aerially and with safe hands, not to mention a long kick and being a good organiser.

    Shilton's side kept 25 clean sheets in 42 games that season to win the First Division league title.

28. Kevin Keegan, 1981-82

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    Kevin Keegan had already won such accolades as the European Footballer of the Year before joining Southampton, but he enjoyed good success on a personal level in his two seasons with the Saints, too.

    A diminutive but energetic and skilful centre-forward, Keegan scored 26 league goals in 41 games in 1981-'82, helping Southampton to seventh place in the league, though they were in the top three at the turn of the year before a dip in form.

    Keegan had good acceleration, was a smart finisher and, despite being relatively short, was good in the air.

27. Terry McDermott, 1979-80

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    Terry McDermott was an industrious but supremely talented midfielder who played for Liverpool and Newcastle United in the 1970s and '80s.

    Possessor of a great range of passing and capable of scoring sensational goals, McDermott was a big part of the Liverpool team which won the First Division title in 1980, notching 11 goals himself along the way.

    As well as the PFA award, McDermott also scooped the Football Writers' Association Player of the Year award—the first player to win both of these major awards in the same season.

26. Teddy Sheringham, 2000-01

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    Teddy Sheringham had a vintage campaign with Manchester United in 2000-01, winning the league title and playing a major role in the side despite being well into his 30s by then.

    His 21 goals in all competitions, 15 in the league, made him United's top scorer that season, while he also scored his final two international goals that year as well.

    A clever and all-round second forward, Sheringham was a good link-up player as well as being exceptional in the air and a regular scorer of goals during his career.

25. Alan Shearer, 1996-97

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    Alan Shearer joined Newcastle for a world-record fee of £15 million in 1996 and immediately repaid them with a season of goals, culminating in his second Player of the Year award.

    Shearer hit 25 goals in 31 games that season, top scoring in the Premier League, though Newcastle only managed to finish in second place behind Manchester United.

    It would actually be his most productive season for league goals in a Newcastle shirt, though he played for the team for a further nine seasons.

24. Gary Lineker, 1985-86

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    Lineker shoots for goal
    Lineker shoots for goalDavid Cannon/Getty Images

    Gary Lineker won both the FWA and the PFA Player of the Year awards in '86, the first non-Liverpool player to do so.

    The England striker was known for his unerring finishing ability, a real poacher of a centre-forward who could find spaces in tight penalty areas and who had the acceleration to gain a yard on his marker and score in half a second.

    His 30 league goals in his only campaign for Everton made Lineker the top scorer in the country, earning the Golden Boot, though honours just evaded him as Everton finished as runners-up in both the league and the FA Cup to Liverpool.

23. Gary Pallister, 1991-92

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    Gary Pallister won the Player of the Year award in 1992, making it three in four years for Manchester United players.

    The tall central defender was almost unbeatable in the air but also possessed a good technique and passing range, was good at reading the game and formed the basis of Manchester United's early successful sides of the Premier League era.

    In this final old Division One season, United finished second but with the best defensive record in the league, testament to Pallister's abilities.

22. David Ginola, 1998-99

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    David Ginola was the first Premier League-era player to win the Footballer of the Year award for a club outside of the top four in the final league table, with his Tottenham Hotspur team finishing 11th in the 1998-99 season.

    Ginola also won the FWA award, testament to his dazzling skills on the ball and extravagant wing play in an exciting but rather mediocre Spurs side.

    Usually playing from the left side of midfield, Ginola was capable of great feats of individual play, dribbling past opponents at ease, while he also scored seven goals in all competitions that season as Spurs won the League Cup.

21. Norman Hunter, 1973-74

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    Norman Hunter, in white, makes a tackle
    Norman Hunter, in white, makes a tackleGetty Images/Getty Images

    Norman Hunter was a ferocious, tough-tackling central defender who starred for Leeds United during the 1960s and '70s.

    Coming off the back of a season in which his side had lost the European Cup final, Hunter won the first-ever PFA Players' Player of the Year award in '74. He helped his team to the First Division title that year, losing just five matches along the way in a 42-game season.

     

20. Peter Reid, 1984-85

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    At a time when Merseyside football dominated the landscape of England's top league, Everton midfielder Peter Reid was in the form of his life as his side won both the First Division title and the European Cup Winners' Cup.

    Only an FA Cup-final defeat prevented even more silverware being brought to Goodison Park.

    Reid played as a holding midfielder, supporting his team-mates from deep with his tyrannical dominance in the centre of the park and no shortage of ability in his passing either.

19. David Platt, 1989-90

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    Goalscoring midfielder David Platt combined tenacity and work rate with an ability to make unstoppable runs into the penalty box from deep, often coming up with key goals in matches and largely retaining an impressive and consistent strike rate.

    The season previous, Villa had only avoided relegation by a point; in '89-90 they finished as runners-up, with Platt a vital component of the team as he scored 19 times from midfield.

    Platt was the second Villa player to win the award.

18. Steven Gerrard, 2005-06

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    Steven Gerrard became the first Liverpool player to win the PFA Player of the Year award since John Barnes in 1988 when he won the prize in 2006.

    Playing in a right-sided attacking midfield role most of that season, Gerrard had his best goalscoring season up to that point with 23 in all competitions, helping his side to third in the Premier League and winning the FA Cup.

    His final goal in that season was, of course, a last-minute, long-range strike which secured a draw after 90 minutes before his side won the cup on penalties.

17. Cristiano Ronaldo, 2006-07

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    Cristiano Ronaldo picked up a clean sweep in 2006-07 when he won the PFA Player of the Year, the Young Player of the Year and the Football Writers' Association Player of the Year.

    He hit 17 Premier League goals along the way and 23 in total, surpassing the 20 mark for the first time, as Manchester United also won the Premier League title.

    After a couple of years of stylish play which at times lacked end product, Ronaldo proved himself the real deal this term with far greater consistency, athleticism and an all-round improving game to go with his already outstanding traits of on-the-ball skill.

16. John Wark, 1980-81

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    Barrel-chested, moustachioed John Wark was a central midfielder who made his name as an all-round player who was equally adept covering at centre-back or playing as a primary attacking force from deep in midfield.

    In 1980-81 he struck a mammoth 36 goals from midfield, from just 40 matches, firing Ipswich to second place in the old Division One in England.

    He did, however, see his goals rewarded with a winners' medal, too, as Ipswich won the UEFA Cup that season.

15. Ruud Van Nistelrooy, 2001-02

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    Ruud van Nistelrooy joined Manchester United at the start of 2001-02 and by the end of it was the league's second-top scorer and the PFA Player of the Year.

    The Dutch forward scored 23 goals in his debut campaign, netting multiple hat-tricks along the way, as United finished in third place, 10 points off the leaders.

    A fearsome penalty-box striker, van Nistelrooy was a clinical and single-minded forward who thrived on service from wide areas, netting all kinds of goals and showing great consistency.

14. Robin Van Persie, 2011-12

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    Robin van Persie's final season at Arsenal saw him score 30 goals, claiming the top-scorer award, while he also won the FWA Player of the Year as well as the PFA version.

    His injury problems behind him, van Persie's supreme technique and goalscoring ability came to the fore, hitting 37 in all competitions and helping Arsenal to a third-place finish.

    The Dutch striker led the line alone, though his movement and capacity to drop deep and into channels meant he was far more than an out-and-out poacher, instead bringing lots to his team's link-up play and transition phases.

13. Thierry Henry, 2002-03

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    Arsenal finished second in 2002-03 season, unable to retain their Premier League crown, but in Thierry Henry, they had one of the top talents in world football.

    The French forward combined blistering acceleration and great agility in possession with ever-improving finishing technique in an attack-minded outfit which was almost purpose-built to suit his attributes.

    Henry ended the season with 24 league goals, 32 in all competitions, while his side also won the FA Cup that term. He also won the FWA award in the same season.

12. Wayne Rooney, 2009-10

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    A fourth consecutive Manchester United player to win the PFA Players' Player of the Year award was Wayne Rooney in 2010. He also won the FWA prize.

    Rooney top scored for United with 27 goals in the 2009-10 Premier League season, ending as the second-highest league scorer overall. United ended the season second in the table, though they did win the League Cup that season.

    A fantastic all-round forward whether leading the line or as a second striker, Rooney's technique and movement mark him out as one of the best attackers in the English game, while his 34 goals in all competitions is his joint-best to date.

11. Eric Cantona, 1993-94

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    Manchester United retained their Premier League crown in '94, with Eric Cantona's performances in attack a key reason for their success.

    The French attacker became the first non-British or Irish player to win the Player of the Year award, as he also scored twice in the FA Cup final that year with United winning the double.

    Cantona scored 18 in 34 games, and his creativity and intellect on the pitch were just as important factors as his goalscoring for the team.

10. Kenny Dalglish, 1982-83

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    Kenny Dalglish enjoyed a season to remember in 1982-83; his Liverpool side won the First Division title, he scored 18 league goals to record his best haul in four years, the Reds won the League Cup trophy and Dalglish himself won the FWA Player of the Year as well as the PFA award.

    A Scottish forward who was known for his elegance and technique on the ball as well as his vision and passing, Dalglish was regarded as Liverpool's best player in a team which won every major trophy going in the early '80s.

    Liverpool won the league by 11 points that season.

9. Roy Keane, 1999-00

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    The last Irish player to date to win the PFA Player of the Year award, Roy Keane also won the FWA award in 2000 as he captained Manchester United to another Premier League title.

    A relentless and imposing figure in the centre of midfield, Keane could tackle, pass and carry the ball with equal ability; he was an influential leader on the park and brought a great mentality to the team overall.

    Keane also scored 12 goals in all competitions that season, his best return in his whole career and the only time he made it to double figures.

8. John Barnes, 1987-88

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    John Barnes, centre, with the First Division trophy in '88
    John Barnes, centre, with the First Division trophy in '88Simon Bruty/Getty Images

    In 1987-88 Liverpool won the league with perhaps the finest attacking team the club has produced to win the championship. John Barnes was a major part of that attack, with his pace and dribbling skills down the left flank terrorising defences all season.

    Barnes scored 15 times that season from the wing and produced far more goals for his centre-forward team-mates.

    Liverpool won the league and reached the FA Cup final, where they were beaten by Wimbledon, though there was no European football on offer for English clubs at that time.

7. Dennis Bergkamp, 1997-98

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    The second overseas winner of the award was Arsenal's Dennis Bergkamp, the Dutch forward who was awarded the Player of the Year in 1998.

    He top-scored for the Gunners with 22 goals in all competitions, with 16 Premier League goals helping Arsenal to the title. His team also won the FA Cup that season, though Bergkamp missed the final through injury. He also won the FWA award that season.

    A great technical second striker with an eye for a pass, the Dutchman also scored his share of sublime and spectacular goals thanks to his ingenuity and close control.

6. John Terry, 2004-05

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    John Terry's winning of the Player of the Year award in 2005 represents, to date, the last time a defensive player has claimed the prize.

    The Chelsea captain skippered his side to the league title as a key part of a phenomenal defence; the Blues conceded just 15 goals all season long, only six at home, finishing a hefty 12 points clear of their nearest rivals.

    Committed, a true leader and an organiser, rock solid in the air and fearless in ground duels, Terry was the warrior at the back upon whom the title charge was built.

5. Alan Shearer, 1994-95

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    Shearer scored a league-record 34 goals in 1994-95, albeit in a 42-game season, to finish as top scorer and Premier League winner as Blackburn Rovers took the title on the final day of the season.

    A powerful and direct striker, Shearer is regarded as one of the best English forwards of all time, with his ability to score from any range and with any part of his body.

    He scored 37 in all competitions that season.

4. Gareth Bale, 2012-13

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    Last season's winner of the Player of the Year award was Gareth Bale, his second such award, this time taking both PFA and FWA versions.

    Bale was at his very best over the final third of the campaign, scoring goals with incredible consistency to keep his side in the hunt for a top-four finish, though they ended the season in fifth.

    Tottenham's main man was played across the attacking-midfield line, even centrally at times, with his powerful running style seemingly impossible to defend against and his list of spectacular strikes growing by the week. Bale ended the season with 21 league goals, 26 in all competitions.

3. Ian Rush, 1983-84

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    Ian Rush won the FWA Player of the Year award as well as the PFA version in '84, meaning all three players to have achieved that feat up until then had been Liverpool players.

    No wonder Rush claimed the award that season: As well as his 47 goals in all competitions, Rush and his Liverpool side won a terrific treble of the First Division title, the League Cup and the European Cup.

    The Welsh striker had great acceleration, scored goals with both feet and played in a side which was arguably the best in the world at that time.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo, 2007-08

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    Cristiano Ronaldo's finest season in a Manchester United shirt came in 2007-08, at the end of which he won his second consecutive Player of the Season award. He also won a second FWA award that year.

    Manchester United won both the Premier League and the Champions League that term, proving themselves the finest in Europe, with Ronaldo's exploits in front of goal a key reason for their success.

    The Portuguese wide forward scored 31 goals in 34 league games, winning the Golden Boot, while he also totalled 42 in 49 games in all competitions, showcasing incredible consistency and resilience for the entire campaign.

1. Thierry Henry, 2003-04

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    Thierry Henry became the first player to win back-to-back PFA Player of the Year awards in 2004 when he picked up his second such award with Arsenal. He also won the FWA award again, having done so the previous campaign too.

    That was perhaps his and Arsenal's greatest season, with the "Invincibles" going the entire season unbeaten to win the Premier League.

    Henry's pace and clinical edge were at their peak as he scored 39 goals in all competitions, 30 coming in the Premier League, and he won Europe's Golden Boot as well as being the top flight's top scorer in England. Henry also came second in the World Player of the Year award.