London (THE GUARDIAN) - Eden Hazard has been named the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) player of the year for 2014-15, recognising a season of performances that have helped bring Chelsea to the verge of the Premier League title.
The 24-year-old, who won the young player of the year award last year and has built on that achievement with some impeccable displays this time around, took the prize ahead of second-placed Harry Kane and third-placed David de Gea. A few hours before the ceremony at Grosvenor House in London, Hazard had made his 33rd league start in as many games at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium, where his side secured a draw that took them 10 points clear at the top with five games left.
"I'm very happy," said Hazard. "One day I want to be the best and what I did this season is play very well, Chelsea played very well. I don't know if I deserve to win but it is good for me.
"It is good, it is better to be voted by the players - they know everything about football. This is good. I'm very happy." Hazard, a Belgium international, arrived at Stamford Bridge from Ligue 1 side Lille in June 2012 as a much-heralded wonderkind and has matured into one of the world's best attacking players. He has scored 18 goals in all competitions this season and was praised by his manager Jose Mourinho last week as "A fantastic boy. A golden boy."
"I continue like I did last season - I try to be the same," added Hazard. "I try to score more goals than last season (when he scored 17). Personally I have played a good season, I have been there in the big games and I scored a lot of important goals, this is why I'm better this season.
"Jose (Mourinho) lets me play, we talk together sometimes and when I'm on the pitch, I know what I have to do - this is most important. We are almost there to win the league."
The young player of the year award was won by Kane, ahead of Hazard and Philippe Coutinho. It came as little surprise after a season in which the 21-year-old striker has scored 30 goals for Tottenham Hotspur - 20 of them in the Premier League. He described his campaign as "unreal".
Kane, who also scored on his England debut in March within 79 seconds of entering the pitch against Lithuania, had been named alongside Hazard in the PFA Team of the Year earlier on Sunday. Five other Chelsea players also made the XI and were joined by De Gea, Ryan Bertrand, Coutinho and Alexis Sanchez.
Ji So-yun made it a clean sweep for Chelsea in the senior awards, being named PFA women's player of the year. The South Korean midfielder has been instrumental for the current Women's Super League leaders since joining the club last year. Leah Williamson, the 18-year-old Arsenal midfielder and England Under-23 international, took the women's young player of the year title.
There was also acknowledgement for two long-term servants to the men's game who will both leave the Premier League for Major League Soccer this summer. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard shared the PFA Merit Award - with Lampard, who partnered Gerrard in the England midfield for a decade, saying: "It is a great honour to be alongside a player who himself has done so much for the game. For the two of us to get it, it is a nice send-off and a nice ending for me."