Kante in the spotlight, whether he likes it or not
N'Golo Kante is the most defensive-minded midfielder among the outfield nominees for The Best FIFA Men's Player 2017
Second player in English Premier League history to lift trophy in consecutive seasons playing for different teams
After his transition from Leicester City to Chelsea, he's shown his ability to thrive in different tactical systems
N’Golo Kante wants nothing to do with the spotlight. Back in April 2017, despite being named the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) Players' Player of the Year, Kante could still be spotted around London driving his modest, small car.
Kante’s former manager at Leicester City, Craig Shakespeare, told The Mirror: “N'Golo used to come to training with us in his mini, and as far as we know, he still drives his mini. He popped in to see us recently at the hotel when we played Crystal Palace, which sums his personality up. He came in to see the staff and the players. We all looked for a big Bentley outside but he is still in his mini. He always keeps his feet firmly on the ground.”
An English Premier League winner with Leicester City in 2015/16, and then with Chelsea in 2016/17, Kante is a candidate for this year’s The Best FIFA Men’s Player 2017 award, and his rise to the top has been truly sensational.
Kante is the second player in Premier League history to win consecutive trophies with different clubs (goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer was the first). During both triumphant campaigns, the diminutive Paris-born midfielder played an integral role, running central midfield with unmatched energy.
Just like his choice of automobile, Kante’s strengths on the football pitch are ones that often fly under the radar: tackling, ball interception and now, pass completion. During Leicester’s fairytale run to winning the Premier League in 2015/16, he scored one goal and tallied four assists. However, in most circles, he was identified as one of the key factors to Claudio Ranieri’s side’s remarkable success.
During Chelsea’s winning league campaign last season, he notched one goal and one assist in 35 appearances, yet he was named the PFA Player of the Year; telling you everything about the kind of player the Foxes bought to England from Caen two years ago.
When he made the transition from Leicester to Chelsea, Kante showed he has more to his game than tackling and regaining possession. Tellingly, during his title-winning season with Chelsea compared with that of Leicester’s, he completed 612 more passes with the Blues. He was immediately a part of Antonio Conte’s plans but, with a new set of expectations on the tactical side, he more than passed the test.
“Last season, I said during many press conferences about N’Golo that he could improve a lot with the ball,” Chelsea boss and The Best FIFA Men’s Coach 2017 candidate Antonio Conte said. “He’s working very hard to improve this weakness. But I think now he’s a complete player - he’s a top player with the ball, without the ball. He always knows when he has the ball what he has to do.”
Kante has gone from strength to strength since playing on the world’s stage in the Premier League and for France in 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying. Whether he likes it or not, he’s in the spotlight now.
What they say about Kante “Everybody knows that N'Golo Kante can run for 11 players - that's his best quality. He gets the ball and plays simple. When the manager tells him something, he will do it and he will do it perfectly. He’s one of the biggest players for Chelsea, he makes the difference, because, to be honest, when you see when they lose the ball, he will lose the ball three times and win the ball back four times! He’s everywhere! He’s a big player.” France and Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba speaking with MUTV
"Everything looks simple and easy with Kante and I know that it is not always easy, I have played in the same position. Sometimes it is difficult, but he knows what he has to do and he does it very well for the team. He can relaunch the game. I am happy for him. He is a discrete man, he is quiet but he is here, and he always smiles. He has a fluent game. Everything he does is fluent." *France manager Didier Deschamps*
"This player Kante, he was running so hard that I thought he must have a pack full of batteries hidden in his shorts. He never stopped running in training. I tell him: 'One day, I’m going to see you cross the ball, and then finish the cross with a header yourself'. He’s unbelievable." Former Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri writing in The Players' Tribune