Belfast Telegraph

John Laverty: My player of the decade? Don't laugh... it's Jamie Vardy

Jamie Vardy
Jamie Vardy
John Laverty

By John Laverty

One day left, so there's still time to get my tuppence-worth in for Premier League player of the decade.

Ah, you thought it would be someone from all-conquering Man City? Sergio Aguerooooo perhaps, David Silva or Vincent Kompany?

All three are strong contenders, as are Harry Kane of Spurs and Chelsea duo Eden Hazard (now of Real Madrid) and N'Golo Kante, the latter capturing back-to-back titles at two different clubs.

But it's Kante's former Leicester team-mate Jamie Vardy who tops the list for me.

And you could use two goals he scored against Manchester United to neatly bookend the most pivotal and rewarding period of his career.

His first came in September 2014, during a dramatic 5-3 win over the Red Devils at the King Power Stadium.

It was the first time United had lost a Premier League encounter after going 2-0 up and Vardy, who was starting his first game in the top flight at the age of 26, opened his now very impressive goalscoring account that day.

Fast forward 13 months to the same fixture; by now the whippet-fast Vardy is the most lethal striker in English football, his neatly-taken and widely celebrated goal making him the first player to score in 11 consecutive EPL games.

Having helped the Foxes stage a miracle escape from relegation the previous season, the effervescent, terrier-like and perpetually irritating Vardy's goals would propel Claudio Ranieri's 5,000-1 outsiders to an astonishing title win a year later.

Although the first to admit he's hardly the most technically gifted player - indeed, it was his silky team-mate Riyad Mahrez who won Footballer of the Year that historic season - Vardy gets my vote for knuckling down and battling his way to the summit after initially squandering his early promise, a fate that, sadly, has befallen so many young footballers.

Runner-up on my list is the goalkeeper Vardy beat on those two momentous afternoons, David de Gea.

A recent slump in form might have tarnished the Spaniard's reputation a little, but if an outfield player had, over the past 10 years, become the most prolific winner of United's Player of the Year award in the club's history, would anyone be quibbling?

And third... James Milner. Longevity, dependability, effort, dedication and reliability, no matter who he's played for. And he's still doing the business at 33. Happy new Decade.

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