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David Meyler: Why €68 million man Dias is my Premier League Player of the Year

This week, our columnist names his stand-out performer of the season and previews the final weekend of the English top flight.

Ruben Dias has settled in remarkably well at Man City.
Ruben Dias has settled in remarkably well at Man City.
Image: PA

EX-IRELAND INTERNATIONAL David Meyler is The42′s football columnist for this season.

Every Friday, the former Hull City and Sunderland midfielder will give expert insight and his predictions ahead of the weekend’s action, alongside the latest William Hill prices.

In his latest column, Meyler picks his Player of the Year before predicting two results in the final round of Premier League games.

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Man City v Everton, 4pm Sunday 

Sunday marks the end of the 2020/21 Premier League campaign, and it has been an unusual one to say the least. 

We were desperate for the sport that we love so dearly to return after the pandemic-induced break last year, but football without fans is a poor substitute and it has been brilliant to see crowds return to stadia this past week. 

The congested fixture list and player fatigue contributed to more forgettable games than usual, and then we had the controversy surrounding a failed Super League breakaway. 

On the pitch, Man City have been head and shoulders above the rest after a shaky start and we’ve known that Pep Guardiola’s side would be crowned champions for some time. 

Sheffield United, West Brom and Fulham were also confirmed as the relegated clubs relatively early, which has left us with very little drama in the closing stages. 

With Man United guaranteed second, just two spots in the top four must be filled on this weekend — Chelsea, Liverpool and Leicester City are all in the hunt. 

Things weren’t looking so rosy for Man City back in September, when they were on the receiving end of a 5-2 defeat to Leicester at the Etihad. 

The central defensive partnership that allowed Jamie Vardy to bag a hat-trick that day was Nathan Ake — a €44 million summer buy from Bournemouth — and 19-year-old Spaniard Eric Garcia.

Guardiola reportedly no longer trusted Nicolas Otamendi or John Stones, while Aymeric Laporte only made the bench after contracting coronavirus. 

Two days after the loss, City agreed to pay Benfica €68m for 23-year-old Portuguese centre-half Ruben Dias. Otamendi went in the opposite direction for €15m. 

Dias arrived and appears to have had an instant impact at the club. He galvanised that defence and formed a formidable partnership with Stones, who has resurrected his City career when it looked as though the England international would need to leave in order to get regular football.

The back four for the Champions League final next weekend is likely to be Kyle Walker, Stones, Dias and one of Oleksandr Zinchenko, Joao Cancelo or Benjamin Mendy.

All of those defenders have upped their game since Dias joined the club and that is testament to his character and his leadership qualities.

They have had 18 clean sheets in the league this season, having only conceded 32 goals. As the old cliché goes, forwards win you games but defenders win you titles and they certainly have this term.

manchester-city-v-liverpool-premier-league-etihad-stadium Pep Guardiola giving instructions to Ruben Dias and Kyle Walker. Source: PA

Dias has got a touch of John Terry about him, in terms of his blocking and tackling. There are shades of Rio Ferdinand in there too as he is really comfortable dribbling the ball out of defence and his range of passing is incredible.

I had the opportunity to interview Ruben recently for Uncut and he possesses a level of self-confidence that is essential to reach the very top.

He has it all in the locker and the scary thing is that he has just turned 24 so can you imagine him in two or three years’ time with more experience under his belt. He’s only going to get better.

For me, Dias is the Premier League Player of the Year.

If you were to look around, Ilkay Gundogan has also been instrumental for City, Bruno Fernandes’ stats for a midfielder at Man United are sensational, while Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah are neck and neck in the race for the Golden Boot. It’s slightly left field, but Tomas Soucek has had a great season for West Ham too.

These awards can be a bit of a popularity contest with mates voting for mates in the PFA Players’ Player of the Year. I can’t really talk as I was putting my support behind Jordan Henderson from early on last season.

Although Virgil van Dijk was the recipient two years ago, defenders don’t tend to win the awards as often as attacking players — who grab more headlines — but they have as much right to as anyone.

The Football Writers’ Association agree with me as they named Dias their Footballer of the Year yesterday (after I had written this column). 

Looking ahead to Sunday’s game against Everton, Pep will be annoyed that his team lost to Brighton after going down to 10 men on Tuesday night.

I think City, Chelsea and United will all play their strongest XIs on the weekend as their managers will want to get keep them sharp ahead of European finals next week.

Of course, there is a risk of injury but that’s always the case. I’d expect City to play a full-strength team and I think they will bounce back with a good performance. I’m predicting a 3-0 win.

Leicester City v Tottenham, 4pm Sunday 

It was brilliant to see Leicester win the FA Cup for the first time last weekend but their hangover from that could cost them in the race for top four.

Chelsea earned a consolation prize by beating the Foxes when the sides met again in the league this week, and I can see Liverpool pipping Brendan Rodgers’ side to the fourth Champions League spot after the Reds’ 3-0 win over Burnley on Wednesday.

tottenham-hotspur-v-wolverhampton-wanderers-premier-league-tottenham-hotspur-stadium It looks like this will be Harry Kane's final game for Spurs. Source: PA

Tottenham are going to want to finish the season on a high after a disappointing campaign.

As already mentioned, Kane is chasing the Golden Boot and this is also expected to be his final game in a Spurs shirt — which will spell the end of an era.

I’m going to say 2-2 and I fancy both Kane and his England team-mate Jamie Vardy to score.

 William Hill odds above correct at the time of writing. New online customers get €30 in free bets when they bet €10 with William Hill. Just use the promo code H30. For all the latest prices, visit williamhill.com. 18+, always gamble responsibly. For more information, see gamblingtherapy.org    

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