During a week of constant outgoings at Chelsea F.C, N’golo Kante departed Chelsea after seven successful years at the club to join Al-ittihad on a free transfer. The 32 year old has been nothing short of a revelation during his time at Chelsea winning the Premier League, Champions League, Europa League, Fa Cup, Super Cup and Club World Cup. Whilst his last season at Chelsea was heavily disrupted by injury, it is certain that Kante will be leaving Chelsea as a legend of the football club.
N’golo Kante entered the limelight after a historic campaign with Leicester City, playing a pivotal role in their shocking 15/16 Premier League title win. He then signed for Chelsea for £32 million a year after Leicester had previously acquired him from Caen for £5.6 million. The Frenchman's inhumane engine was crucial in winning a consecutive premier League title, this time at Chelsea under Antonio Conte, his efforts were rewarded with the 16/17 Premier League Player of the season. Kante’s engine was so impressive that teammate Eden Hazard said “I think sometimes when I’m on the pitch I see him [Kante] twice… I think I’m playing with twins!” (Sherlock, 2017).
He would also excel in the France national team, playing a key role in France’s World Cup triumph in 2018, 2 years after making his debut for France. Starting every game for France forming an incredible partnership with Paul Pogba in the midfield to enable France to cruise towards their first major trophy in 18 years. France National team Manager, Didier Deschamps, claimed that Kante “In his position, he’s one of the best players in Europe and the world. I will not Complain.” (Brown, 2017).
Kante would continue to be a key player for Chelsea however, his intense play-style would hinder his fitness and cause the player to become injury prone as a result of being played further forward under Maurizio Sarri, increasing the intensity being put onto his body. He was still successful under Sarri, winning the Europa League title and finishing 3rd in the Premier League. The Europa League final could easily sum up the player that Kante was at Chelsea, whilst playing with a knee brace he was still able to dominate the Arsenal midfield for the full 90 minutes. Unfortunately, the decision to play Kante in that final most likely had a lasting effect on Kante’s fitness for Chelsea.
His injury problems would start to show in Lampard’s first season as Chelsea manager playing only 22 Premier League games, a substantial fall from the 36 Premier League games that he played the previous season. The 19/20 season was not the best season for Kante, with fans considering selling the star player due to concerns over his fitness, however Chelsea would soon be proven correct to hold onto N’golo Kante for a couple more years after their success in the Champions League next season.
Kante’s injury problems may have continued into the 20/21 season, but he was still able to accumulate a legendary Champions League campaign to aid Chelsea win their 2nd Champions League. Recovering from injury just in time for the Champions League knockout stages, Kante won three consecutive Man of The Match awards including his epic performance in the final against Manchester City in Porto. To attempt to fathom Kante’s contribution to Chelsea’s Champions League win, I will quote a tweet directly from Manchester City’s own twitter account during the final: “Kante has been everywhere all game, if we can bypass him we might be in business!” (@ManCity, 2021).
The season after, Kante would increase the size of his trophy cabinet, winning the Super Cup and Club World Cup. regrettably, Kante would continue to have his season disrupted by injury, failing to play more than 26 games in the Premier League that season, causing fans to again question Kante’s fitness. The 22/23 would unfortunately become an extremely difficult season for the 32 year old and a final nail in the coffin, playing only 9 games for Chelsea in all competitions, practically missing the majority of the season through injury. This clearly had an impact on Chelsea’s form as they had a disastrous season, finishing 12th in the Premier league with a record low points tally in the Premier League. Kante also missed the entirety of the 2022 World Cup with France due to injury which was most likely his last chance to feature for France in the World Cup. France would also suffer from Frenchman's absence, losing in the final to Argentina on penalties.
Kante’s final season at Chelsea will not be how Kante is remembered at Chelsea, instead Kante will go down as a Chelsea legend who was always a prominent figure in our success in his seven year spell at the club. His play-style at Chelsea was always a selfless role that rewards hard work and determination rather than flashy skills and tricks. This reflects the personality and man that Kante is off the pitch, a man who is humble and selfless. Whether it is driving a Mini Cooper whilst on £300,000 a week, showing up to a fan’s wedding or watching Match of the Day with fans, Kante has always been a fantastic role model both on and off the pitch. His positive personality is so infectious that his teammate Christian Pulisic states that Kante “makes me smile every day.” (Drury, 2022).
From humble beginnings to a world champion, N’golo Kante is evidence that nice guys do not always finish last. He is who young athletes should aspire to be, as well as a wonderful footballer that has carved out a legendary footballing career through his determination and ability. I can safely speak on behalf of all Chelsea fans to wish Kante good luck in the next chapter of his career and that he will always be welcomed back at Stamford Bridge as a legend of the club.
Brown, L. (2017, March 22) Chelsea's N'Golo Kante flattered by individual praise but determined not to take his eyes off the prize. Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/premier-league/chelsea-news-ngolo-kante-facts-twitter-a7644581.html
Drury, J. (2022, August 3) ‘He makes me smile’: Christian Pulisic claims 31-year-old is his favourite Chelsea teammate. The Chelsea Chronicle. https://www.thechelseachronicle.com/player-quotes/he-makes-me-smile-christian-pulisic-claims-31-year-old-is-his-favourite-chelsea-teammate/
Manchester City [@ManCity] (2021, May 29) Kante has been everywhere all game, if we can bypass him we might be in business! [Tweet] Twitter. https://twitter.com/ManCity/status/1398734158105649156
Sherlock, H. (2017, March 7) 'Kante plays like two men!' - Hazard praises 'fantastic' Chelsea team-mate. Goal. https://www.goal.com/en-gb/news/kante-plays-like-two-men/1b2n52takuvg81pccybqd3mykx