Player of the Year betting preview: Ronaldo to claim his third award - but only if United win title

Cristiano Ronaldo and Kevin De Bruyne go head-to-head for a hat-trick of awards, but the winner will depend on which Manchester club claims the title.

Kevin De Bruyne is aiming for a third straight PFA Player of the Year crown in 2022 but he will face fierce competition from the returning Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo is another two-time winner of the award having lifted it in 2007 and 2008. Now 13 years later, he has his sights set on a third.

However, while the Manchester-based duo are the frontrunners, Chelsea have two stars gunning for the award in Kevin De Bruyne and N'golo Kante, while Liverpool's returning defenders Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold will be looking to establish themselves among the league's best.

Clearly a tightly-contested race this year, Planet Sport runs through the leading contenders for the 2021/22 PFA Player of the Year award.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Whenever Ronaldo's in town, he always has to be considered as a potential Player of the Year. His record speaks for itself and he'll be wanting to make a few late additions to his trophy cabinet before retirement.

The 36-year-old returned to Old Trafford in dramatic fashion, and certainly won't want to end his legendary career on a whimper.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side has more than enough firepower to fight for the title, the only issue is whether a lack of a defensive midfielder will let them down.

Despite missing out on the first three games, Ronaldo will be keen to make up for lost time and get his goalscoring underway this weekend.

Ronaldo has already shown he is able to outscore any forward in the world, meaning his chances of the award lie in whether Manchester United can win the title.

If Ronaldo does fire the Red Devils to their first title since 2013, then it will be his impact alone that is hailed - no matter what Jadon Sancho might achieve - and he'll lift the award come June.

Romelu Lukaku

Chelsea's returning star hit the ground running on his debut against Arsenal, scoring after just 15 minutes.

It's certainly a good start to life back in blue, but the goalscoring Belgian will have to reach new heights this season if he is to pip his rivals to become Player of the Year.

With Harry Kane eager to repay the fans' love at Tottenham and Ronaldo returning, there's a plethora of attacking talent gunning for this year's award.

Following Timo Werner's frustrating stint up front for Chelsea, Thomas Tuchel has been happy to hand over the reins to Lukaku.

With little competition for his spot, Lukaku is likely to enjoy a lengthy run in the side.

But having already found his return overshadowed by that of Ronaldo, he may find his goals suffer the same consequence too.

N'golo Kante

Our dark horse for the prize is N'golo Kante, who so often glues together the heart of Chelsea's midfield.

The French midfielder lifted the award back in 2016/17 after he helped the Blues to the Premier League title.

If he can do the same again in 2021/22, then Kante will be adding another Player of the Year award to his burgeoning trophy cabinet.

Since Thomas Tuchel took over at Stamford Bridge, Kante and Jorginho have been the preferred duo in midfield and have formed an impressive relationship in the process.

Tasked with defending and breaking up play, much of Kante's work goes under the radar, but the 30-year-old works so tirelessly that it's impossible to not credit his displays.

Having only conceded one goal this season - and even that was with 10 men at Anfield - Chelsea are already showing their defensive dominance in the league. Should they be crowned champions, it'll be hard to look past their World Cup-winning midfielder.

Jack Grealish

There's no surprise that Grealish is among the favourites after making a £100million switch to Manchester City this summer.

With his hefty price tag comes a huge responsibility, including the expectation to compete for Player of the Year.

However, the former Aston Villa captain will have to make huge improvements from his six goals and 10 assists last season.

Grealish will find more opportunities to bolster his attacking output, but on the flip side, he's no longer the go-to man for his club, joining a long list of exceptional talents at Pep Guardiola's disposal.

He's enjoyed a relatively strong start to the season with a goal and assist, but has hardly set the world alight.

As he settles in and adapts to life under Guardiola, Grealish may be a stronger contender for a run at Player of the Year next season, but as it stands it's too soon for the 25-year-old.

Virgil van Dijk

Liverpool hugely missed him last season, and he's showing exactly why already in the 2021/22.

The Dutchman has already silenced the critics who thought he would be a shadow of his former self following his ligament injury.

Van Dijk lifted the award in the 2018/19 season despite Liverpool narrowly missing out on the trophy, and if he replicates his superb form he'll be among the frontrunners for this season's prize.

However, while Liverpool may have started well, Van Dijk's claim depends not only on where the Reds finish this season, but also if he can maintain his fitness.

Obviously the same can be applied to all players, but fitness will certainly be a concern for Van Dijk after recovering from a lengthy injury.

It's so far so good for the 30-year-old, but Liverpool's lack of defensive depth will leave Van Dijk isolated at the back, and may well ruin his chances of a second award.

Harry Kane

Tottenham's star striker can consider himself unlucky not to win the award last season after registering the highest goals and assists in 2020/21.

However, Kane has endured a shaky start to the new campaign after a summer filled with transfer rumblings regarding his move to Manchester City.

Despite his heartfelt message to fans, there's no denying that Kane wanted to join the reigning champions.

If the England captain is able to replicate his numbers from last season he would be fully deserving of the award.

But, it's yet to be seen whether Kane's head is still in north London. And with speculation set to resurface come the next transfer window, will he be able to keep his focus on the pitch?

Kevin De Bruyne

After being named Player of the Year in the last two seasons, De Bruyne is aiming to become the first player to win the honour three times, never mind in three consecutive seasons.

The creative Belgian has only made a sole appearance this season in the 1-0 loss to Tottenham, but is set to return from injury this weekend against Leicester City.

After missing large parts of the 2020/21 campaign due to injury, De Bruyne has already shown he can recover from setbacks and still claim the crown.

However, as the recurring theme goes - De Bruyne's chances heavily rely on not only his attacking output for Manchester City, but also whether they are crowned league champions.

Guardiola's side are the favourites for the title, but the elusive Champions League trophy remains their real aim and that will hinder them domestically.

It's the one prize that City haven't won since their rise to dominance, and Guardiola is likely to prioritise midweek European games ahead of league fixtures.

A cup double would all but seal De Bruyne's crown, but with the likes of Chelsea and United all in for the league, City and their star Belgian will struggle to stand out.

Trent Alexander-Arnold

Everyone loves a comeback story - and Alexander-Arnold's heart-wrenching injury that ruled him out of the Euros just days before its start could yet work in his favour.

After being at the centre of controversy regarding Gareth Southgate's team selection in the summer, the 22-year-old is back in action for Liverpool this season and has already resumed his usual service.

With one assist to his name already, if Trent is able to replicate his incredible attacking output from previous seasons, then he will be making headlines for all the right reasons.

In 2020/21, the Liverpool academy star came under fire for some poor defensive displays, but with Van Dijk back alongside him, he could return to his mind-boggling heights of before.

At 40/1, he offers great value, especially if Liverpool return to their title-winning form of 2019/20.

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