Rashford, Foden, Saka: Who are the contenders for PFA Young Player of the Year?

Phil Foden

The beginning of the international break represents an apt time for reflection on the Premier League season so far.

By this stage it's already clear that Manchester City will coast home to their third title under Pep Guardiola, Newcastle United may struggle to reserve their top flight status and Liverpool, to everyone's surprise, are outside contenders for a place in the top four. 

A quick glance at the table tells a thousand stories, but how about the individual players who are driving these tales of roaring success and unexpected failure? 

It's coming up to the time of year when footballers are asked to cast their votes for individual awards, and there are plenty of top talents who are in contention for PFA accolades. 

Ruben Dias and Bruno Fernandes have been widely touted as the two favourites for the PFA Player of the Year award.

But who are the key players in contention for the Young Player of the Year award? 

Well, here at GIVEMESPORT we've ranked the 16 players with the strongest chance of clinching an accolade that Trent Alexander-Arnold, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Eden Hazard have all won since the Premier League's inception. 

Any player who was aged 23 and under at the beginning of the season is technically eligible for the award.

Take a look at the 16 candidates in descending order below...

16. Tanguy Ndombele

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Few players in world football will be able to match Tanguy Ndombele's highlights reel come the end of the season. 

The Spurs technician's stylish dribbling ability, mind-blowing balance and spontaneity have won him plenty of admirers, but it's unlikely to be enough to clinch a PFA award.

15. Kieran Tierney

Kieran Tierney has put his injury-hit debut season behind him and established himself as one of the best left-backs in the league in 2020/21. 

His passionate approach is a bit of a throwback and one that will certainly ender him to the Arsenal faithful in the coming years.

14. Raphinha

Like Ndombele, Raphinha has dazzled opponents with the ball at his feet this season and been Leeds United's most impressive forward player. 

13. Curtis Jones

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It's been a real breakthrough year for Curtis Jones and all the signs are pointing towards a massive future in the game. 

That he's regularly selected over Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita in Liverpool's midfield underlines just how highly rated he is by Jurgen Klopp.

12. Harvey Barnes

Harvey Barnes has stepped up another level this season, scoring nine goals and providing four assists in 25 league appearances. 

Leicester City's academy product earned his first England cap back in October and can count himself unlucky to have missed out on a place in Gareth Southgate's most recent squad.

11. James Justin

James Justin is another emerging talent from Leicester's excellent youth system.

The versatile full-back was a revelation for the Foxes until an anterior cruciate ligament injury cruelly cut his season short in February, depriving him of the chance to earn a spot in England's squad for the delayed Euro 2020 competition.

10. Marcus Rashford

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It feels like Marcus Rashford hasn't quite found top gear this season yet he still boasts a return of nine goals and seven assists in 29 league outings.

Away from the pitch, meanwhile, Rashford has used his platform admirably  to stimulate real, political change and helped the lives of millions during one of the biggest global crises in living memory. 

9. Wesley Fofana

According to data provided by WhoScored, Wesley Fofana, who Leicester signed from Saint Etienne last summer, is the highest rated central defender (7.12) under the age of 25.

Fofana cuts a remarkably composed presence in the back line and has both the athleticism and defensive intelligence to suggest he'll grow into one of the division's best centre-backs.

Another shining example of Leicester's first-class recruitment system in motion.

8. Declan Rice

West Ham United's climb into contention for the top four has been one of the most remarkable stories of the season thus far, and Declan Rice has been at the heart of it. 

He remains criminally underrated, but that is an occupational hazard for holding midfielders.

7. Dominic Calvert-Lewin

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With 14 goals in 25 league appearances, Dominic Calvert-Lewin has enjoyed his best season to date in Everton blue.

There were doubts over his credentials to lead the line for Everton prior to Carlo Ancelotti's arrival.

Just fifteen months into the Italian's reign, he's a shoe-in for England's Euros squad and potentially Southgate's second choice centre-forward in the event that Harry Kane is injured or suspended.

6. Emile Smith Rowe

In football's game of comparisons Emile Smith-Rowe drew the Kevin De Bruyne card, which speaks volumes about the extent of his impact at Arsenal this season. 

His introduction to the first-team against Chelsea on Boxing Day last year marked the beginning of a significant upturn in form that effectively kept Mikel Arteta in the hot seat.

Though he's only made 12 league starts this season, no other player on this list has made such a transformative effect in such a short space of time.

A massive talent for the future. 

5. Bukayo Saka

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Another revelation from Arsenal's academy.

Bukayo Saka has showcased his versatility and complete footballing ability across a variety of positions.

At just 19 years of age, the England international is destined for a glowing career for both club and country.

4. Pedro Neto

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Pedro Neto has been Wolves' diamond in the mud during a thoroughly underwhelming campaign for the club.

The Portugal international is the fifth highest rated player (7.13) under the age of 24 this season and the highest of those who don't play for one of the established top six.

With five goals, five assists and five Man of the Match awards, Nuno Espirito Santo may struggle to keep him at Molineux this summer. 

3. Mason Mount

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In the midst of the Mason Mount vs Jack Grealish debate it's often easy to forget that the former is an immense talent. 

Perhaps he doesn't win as many fouls, beat as many opponents or score as many goals as Grealish, but his overall play is up there with the best playmakers in the division. 

His 7.34 season rating puts him at the top of the chart for players under the age of 24. 

2. Phil Foden

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The 2020/21 season has long been bookmarked as Phil Foden's full breakthrough campaign.

Many predicted Foden's rise to coincide with David Silva's departure, and that pervading feeling has turned prophetic during a scintillating season for the Stockport Iniesta. 

He's scored six goals and provided five assists in 22 appearances (14 starts) and reserved his best display of the season to help Manchester City dispel their Anfield hoodoo in emphatic fashion.

Foden has a huge chance of scooping the PFA award, but his teammate might just pip him to it...

1. Ruben Dias

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Man City's decision to spend £65m on Ruben Dias drew plenty of scepticism, but so did Liverpool's £75m signing of Virgil van Dijk January 2018.

Rather poetically, it turns out that Dias is City's Van Dijk equivalent: a natural-born leader whose presence has had a transformative effect on the entire club. 

Pep Guardiola's expansive brand of football has been allowed to flourish with the knowledge that Dias is marshalling a tight defensive unit at the base of the system, and his influence has made City an indomitable force across all four competitions.

If City do manage to clinch three or more trophies this season, then don't be surprised if Dias scoops both the PFA Player and Young Player of the Year awards.

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