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Sports Mole Writers' Awards: Premier League Player of the Season

The Sports Mole team select their Premier League Player of the Season from the 2020-21 campaign.

Another Premier League season is now in the history books, and 2020-21 will go down as perhaps the most unique yet having been played during a global pandemic, mostly behind closed doors and very briefly amid a Super League storm which threatened the very future of the competition.

Here, the Sports Mole team select who they believe should be the Premier League Player of the Season.

Barney Corkhill, Editor: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

Manchester City's Ruben Dias celebrates with the trophy after winning the Premier League on May 23, 2021© Reuters

The numbers of Harry Kane, Bruno Fernandes and Mohamed Salah are all very impressive, and there is no doubt that each of their teams would have fared far worse this season without those star men all in superb form.

However, arguably the biggest impact has come from Ruben Dias at Manchester City. The Portuguese centre-back's arrival was not the only factor behind them overturning an 18-point gap to the leaders from 2019-20 to win the title by 12 points this time around, but it was perhaps the biggest.

Dias only missed six games all season, but in those six matches Man City conceded more than a third of the goals they let in throughout the campaign - and average of 1.8 goals conceded per game when he did not play compared to just 0.7 when he did play.

For me, comparisons with Virgil van Dijk are a little too early at this stage, but there is no doubt that Dias is exactly what Man City needed and, at 24, he could prove to be a rock at the back for a long time yet.

Matt Law, Football Editor: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

For me, this was a straightforward decision. Bruno Fernandes has been sensational for Man United, while Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah have been full of goals, but it is very difficult to look past Dias considering the impact that he has had at Man City.

The 24-year-old was a towering presence at the back and showed real leadership for the champions, who would not have won the title without him.

Dan Lewis, Senior Reporter: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

Ruben Dias warms up for Manchester City in February 2021© Reuters

As tempting as it is to focus solely on the stats, in which case it's hard to look beyond Kane and Fernandes for their goals and assists contributions, this award has to go to the player who has had the biggest individual effect on their side.

Dias filled the void left by Vincent Kompany in no time following his summer arrival and, for me, is the main reason why City returned to the top of the pile this season.

Darren Plant, Senior Reporter: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

With Manchester City conceding just four fewer goals than Chelsea, there is an argument that praise should not be freely dished out to the likes of Ruben Dias.

However, there is a strong argument that City would not have won the Premier League title without the addition of the Portuguese, whose character and presence made all the difference during the middle part of the season.

Ben Knapton, Senior Reporter: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

Ruben Dias pictured for Manchester City in January 2021© Reuters

Each and every one of Pep Guardiola's crop plays their part in Manchester City's effort to preserve clean sheets, but Ruben Dias's contribution is too good to be overlooked.

The 24-year-old has demonstrated impeccable levels of fitness to play 48 games for the club and City fans surely cannot wait to see how his partnership with John Stones blossoms next season.

Oliver Thomas, Reporter: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

As impressive as Manchester City have been going forward, vast improvements defensively were pivotal for their Premier League triumph and Ruben Dias has been the man at the heart of their success.

The 24-year-old has enjoyed a phenomenal first season for Pep Guardiola's side. A colossal centre-back who takes pride in defending. His influence has raised the quality of those around him, particularly John Stones who has come on in leaps and bounds since his arrival.

City struggled last year to replace club legend Vincent Kompany, but Dias certainly seems to be the defensive leader who can fill that void for years to come.

Brett Curtis, Reporter: Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City)

Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan celebrates scoring their third goal on February 13, 2021© Reuters

While I could easily make a case for Ruben Dias, Bruno Fernandes or Harry Kane, Ilkay Gundogan is the player I will most remember the 2020-21 season for.

With all big sides struggling to find any real consistency in the first half of the season, Gundogan's sensational run of 11 league goals (only one of which was a penalty) in 12 games was the main reason Manchester City were elevated above the rest of the chasing pack.

Scoring braces at Anfield and at home to Tottenham in the space of a week in February was simply majestic, and I don't think there's a better outside hook turn operator in world football, as Gundogan demonstrated in the build-up to his opening goal at Stamford Bridge right at the start of City's winning run in January.

Jonathan O'Shea, Reporter: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

Proving to be the final ingredient in Manchester City's revival this season, the Portuguese stopper has combined resilience and brilliance in equal measure; inspiring those around him and demonstrating awareness well beyond his 24 years.

Olly Allen, Reporter: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)

Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane pictured on May 19, 2021© Reuters

While I understand the clamour for Ruben Dias, for me there is simply no one else it could be but Kane.

He has long been one of the league's best goalscorers, but this season he has stepped up and been a creator too. To top the charts for both goals (23) and assists (14) is a phenomenal achievement.

If he stays in the Premier League, whether that be at Tottenham or elsewhere, he will surely break Alan Shearer's record.

Francis Buchanan, Reporter: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

The impact that Ruben Dias has had for City since joining last summer has been nothing short of meteoric.

Considering that City were not enjoying the best start to the campaign, the emergence of Dias as a first-choice centre-back is one of the key reasons why Guardiola managed to turn their season around.

It is easy to forget that he is just 24 years old too. This guy could easily become one of the best in the world.

Sam Varley, Reporter: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)

Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane celebrates scoring against Leeds on January 2, 2021© Reuters

While Ruben Dias comes extremely close to this award, any player who leads the league for both goals and assists deserves special mention, and Kane has done that in a hugely-underperforming Tottenham Hotspur side.

With 23 goals and 14 assists in 35 Premier League appearances, the Englishman has more than warranted links to the biggest clubs in the world.

Marvelous Adepoju, Reporter: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)

Spurs have just recorded their lowest league finish since 2009 but they have Kane to thank for even being in the top half let alone seventh place.

The Englishman had the most direct goal involvements in the league and contributed to 54.4% of his side's 68 strikes.

Joshua Ojele, Reporter: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)

Harry Kane in action for Spurs on March 14, 2021© Reuters

Despite Tottenham Hotspur's struggles, Harry Kane had a stellar individual campaign. The 27-year-old unlocked new heights to his game, proving he can not only score, but can create goals too.

The Englishman contributed 54% of Spurs' 68 league goals, racking up 23 goals and 14 assists to claim the Premier League Golden Boot and Playmaker Award.

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Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane pictured on May 19, 2021
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Sports Mole's Premier League Team of the Season - Kane, Dias, Fernandes
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