A superb return of 18 goals and seven assists saw Dele Alli named Young Player of the Year for a second consecutive season last time out. It prompted independent analysts from CIES Football to name him the world’s second most valuable footballer, behind only Neymar and ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, due to his youth, talent and potential. Can anyone stop him winning it for a third consecutive season? Here we analyse the leading contenders, along with the odds on them winning it:
Dele Alli (7/2)
Alli is a brilliant finisher and times his runs into the box perfectly, evoking memories of Frank Lampard, but he is also great on the ball. He can pass, dribble and grab a game by the scruff of its neck and turn it in his team’s favour. He has the lot and seems destined for greatness, so he deserves to be the favourite.
Gabriel Jesus (11/2)
Serious competition has arrived, however, in the form of Gabriel. He joined Man City is January last season and lit up the Premiership with a succession of excellent performances and some important goals. Injury curtailed his season but he will be back and raring to go for the 2017/18 campaign. He may not get as much game time as Alli as competition for places is very high at City, but he is rated so highly by the club’s hierarchy that he is expected to usurp Sergio Aguero, considered by many the league’s finest striker, in the starting 11. When asked the best player he has ever played with, Neymar dutifully said Messi, but added that Gabriel was the next. At 11/2 he looks an intriguing option so you could do well to check a review of betting sites, find one offering competitive odds and back him.
Marcus Rashford (7/1)
Rashford will face similar competition for a place at Old Trafford, where he set to play understudy to Romelu Lukaku. But everyone knows Man Utd have a gem on their hands, a young English striker full of pace and lethal finishing ability, and if he gets enough minutes he will be in with a shout. However, you do not spend £75 million on a striker and keep him on the bench, so Rashford might be a risky proposition here.
Leroy Sane (10/1)
Again this one is risky as Sane will be going up against Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva for a place in the Man City team. If Pep Guardiola plays Gabriel alongside Aguero there will be even less room. Sane is a magnificent player, but he is not the centre of his team’s play, which Alli is.
Jordan Pickford (14/1)
This is an interesting option after Everton snapped up the precocious goalkeeper for a whopping £30 million this summer. He is extremely talented and performed admirably at Sunderland last season as the Black Cats were relegated. However, his is not a glamorous position and a goalkeeper has never won this award, so it is not looking good for Pickford.
Kelechi Iheanacho (16/1)
Iheanacho will have a point to prove after being sold to Leicester City for £25 million. He has been on the fringes of the Man City team for a few years and has scored vital goals for them, but has been deemed surplus to requirements due to competition from Aguero and Gabriel. Man City know how good he is though, so they added a buy-back clause into his contract, and with his pace and dynamism he can restore Leicester City to the upper echelons of English football, so he looks a great long shot at 16/1.
Sterling will face similar problems to Sane in trying to force his way into a congested Man City attack, while Anthony Martial will struggle for game time at Man Utd. John Stones is a bit too error prone, and Eric Bailly is solid but unspectacular. There are some standout long shots down the list though. How about Eric Dier (33/1), so talented Tottenham turned down a £60 million bid from Man Utd for him? Ross Barkley (20/1) has plenty of potential and could flourish if he gets a big money move to Spurs. The award has mainly been won by attacking midfielders in the past decade and that spells good news for Alli, but someone like Demarai Gray (33/1) or even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (25/1) could spoil his chances of making it three wins on the bounce.