Dele Alli deserved to be on PFA award shortlist, says boss Mauricio Pochettino
Mauricio Pochettino believes Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli deserved to be on the shortlist for the men's Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year award.
Alli has scored 16 goals already this season but was left off the six-man list, which included Chelsea pair N'Golo Kante and Eden Hazard, as well as his Spurs team-mate Harry Kane, Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United and Romelu Lukaku of Everton.
The 21-year-old was named on the shortlist for Young Player of the Year - an award he won last season - but Pochettino claimed Alli was unlucky not to be in contention for the top prize.
"I think he deserves it because he's showing great performances every week and in every game," Pochettino said.
"He's improved a lot from last season. I think he's a better player, he's showing better stats and in my opinion yes, he deserves it.
"After his first season in the Premier League always the people want to see again in the second season if he can confirm all that he showed last season.
"Not only did he confirm that, he's improved in all aspects of his game. That means he's clever, intelligent, still with potential to improve and learn and today he's showing that he's one of the best players in the Premier League."
Kante, who was shortlisted last year for his part in Leicester's remarkable season but did not make the top three, is the bookmakers' favourite for the 2016-17 accolade, with the winners to be announced at Grosvenor Hotel in London on Sunday, April 23.
Hazard picked up this award two years ago, when the Blues won the league at a canter under Jose Mourinho.
Everton forward Lukaku, the top flight's leading scorer this term with 23 goals, is battling it out with a number of his fellow nominees for the Golden Boot.
Manchester United striker Ibrahimovic has scored 17 goals in his first season in English football, while Sanchez has notched 18 times to brighten up what has been a disappointing campaign for Arsenal.
Kane - the only English nominee in this category - has netted 19 goals despite two spells out with ankle problems. He was third in the voting last year and has also been shortlisted for the Young Player of the Year gong alongside Alli.
The Tottenham duo are joined on the young player shortlist by Lukaku, Burnley defender Michael Keane, Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and Manchester City winger Leroy Sane.
Keane's impressive form for the Clarets this term earned him a first England senior call-up late last year, and he now has two caps to his name. Pickford has performed well between the posts in a struggling Black Cats side, while Germany international Sane has won rave reviews of late following his big-money summer arrival from Schalke.
Having won last season's Women's Super League crown without losing a game, Manchester City are understandably well represented for the women's Player of the Year prize.
England right-back Lucy Bronze, who won the award in 2014, is joined by the club's top scorer Jane Ross and midfielder Jill Scott. Alongside the City trio on the six-woman shortlist are Ellen White, Karen Carney and Caroline Weir.
Ross and Liverpool midfielder Weir both look set to feature in the Scotland team that face England at Euro 2017 this summer.
Bronze and Scott will represent England at the showpiece tournament in Holland, along with attacking midfielder Carney - a consistently strong performer for Chelsea last term - and Birmingham forward White, who scored the winner against the United States at the SheBelieves Cup last month.
Chelsea's Millie Bright and Manchester City's Nikita Parris - both also going to the Euros with England - have been nominated for the women's Young Player of the Year gong.
Three City players get the nod in this category too, with Parris joined by Georgia Stanway and Keira Walsh. Weir is again nominated, along with Birmingham's Jess Carter.
Everton manager Ronald Koeman, unsurprisingly, would vote for Lukaku for the top award if he had the chance.
"He is making the difference between Everton and the rest of the teams," he said.
"He is scoring goals and showing he is the most productive striker in the Premier League.
"There are a lot of good players named for this award but he gets my vote because I see him playing every weekend.
"I don't see Hazard playing every weekend, even though I know he is one of the best."