Arsenal striker Robin van Persie was named the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year in London last night.
The 28-year-old Netherlands international has scored 27 Premier League goals this season –his most fruitful campaign for the club – and was humbled to be recognised by his peers. "If other people are saying it, it is special, but it is even more special if your opponents are saying it," he said. "It is very special because you are playing against them week in, week out and every single player does everything to win and in the end if they make up their minds that I'm the best player it is a big honour."
Van Persie may have picked up the top individual honour but he was quick to point out it would not have been possible without his Arsenal team-mates. "Without them I could not have achieved it," he said. "For example Theo Walcott has given me more than 12 assists."
Van Persie was utilised mainly as a second striker, and occasionally on the wing, in the early stages of his Gunners' career after being signed by manager Arsène Wenger from Feyenoord in 2004. But he has flourished since switching to the main striker role, despite initially being unconvinced he could make the move. He said: "Now I am [confident]. When I first went there I wasn't really as confident and I wasn't really sure I could do it. It took a bit of time but after a couple of months a slowly realised I could do a good job there."
The Young Player of the Year award went to Tottenham and England full-back Kyle Walker. The 21-year-old Spurs defender beat the likes of Sergio Aguero and Danny Welbeck to win the trophy and it came as quite a surprise to the former Sheffield United player. "I was a bit surprised because defenders don't normally get these awards as much as the centre-forwards," he said. "If you look at the people I was in with then it is a great honour and hopefully there is more to come. It is always an honour to be selected by the people you play against and, like I say, hopefully I can get more of these and some medals with Tottenham along the way."
Both players were also selected in the Premier League's Team of the Year. Van Persie was the only Arsenal player present, whereas Walker was one of three Spurs men, along with Scott Parker and Gareth Bale.
Former Holland captain Ruud Gullit believes Arsenal must keep hold of recently-crowned Professional Footballers Association player of the year Robin van Persie if they want to win trophies next season.
Gullit awarded his compatriot the distinguished accolade and feels the 28-year-old is essential to any plans Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has to break the Gunners' eight-year wait for silverware.
"Yes he is vital to success," Gullit told Press Association Sport.
"Arsenal need to win trophies and I think Van Persie wants to and he knows if he wants to become one of the legends of football he needs to win trophies and he will ask Arsene Wenger to strengthen the squad. The team need to give him help."
Two-time European Cup winner Gullit has been very impressed with the performances that earned Van Persie the player of the year award.
"He has been unbelievable," he said. "I think he has shown people what he is capable of both in the manner of style and grace and he is also the leader of the team and that is what impresses me even more."
Former Arsenal forward Alan Smith echoed the opinions of Gullit and believes the Gunners' skipper has done a great job in changing the way he plays.
"He is a class act and I can't see any reason why he can't score many more goals, if Arsenal can keep hold of him of course - which they really need to do," he said.
"I think if you're playing as an out-an-out striker rather than a classic number 10, which is what he is naturally, you are going to get into more goalscoring opportunities but that is the impressive thing from Robin's point of view the way he has adapted his game.
"The runs he has learned to make on the back of defenders is amazing really, he plays like an orthodox striker now."
Premier League team of the year: Joe Hart (Man City); Kyle Walker (Tottenham), Vincent Kompany (Man City), Fabricio Coloccini (Newcastle), Leighton Baines (Everton); David Silva (Man City), Yaya Touré (Man City), Gareth Bale (Tottenham), Scott Parker (Tottenham); Robin van Persie (Arsenal), Wayne Rooney (Man United).