N’Golo Kanté has quietly become one of the best players in the world, and to some such as Frank Lampard, the best central midfielder on current form. That’s a big statement, considering just two years ago he was being monitored by Leicester when he was with Caen, who was in the second division at the time. Caen are known for their amazing youth development in France, similar to Southampton’s youth academy in England. They were promoted to Ligue 1 in Kanté’s first season with the team.
Like many other kids in Paris, Kanté loved football, and at the age of 10, joined amateur side Suresnes, where he learned to play. During his nine years at Suresnes, he went on trials with professional clubs all around France, but never signed with any of the teams. He remained with Suresnes until he was 19. After a one-week trial with French club Boulogne, they were impressed with him and signed him to their reserve team. While with the reserve team, Kanté helped them get promoted to the fifth division. It’s a rise through the ranks similar to that of former teammate Jamie Vardy, and it goes someway to explaining his superhuman workrate.
“Sometimes people maybe say I was a little small when I tried to go [on trial for professional clubs in France] but I think maybe when I was this age I did not have the quality of football for going to them.”
There are different types of central midfielders, from box to box, to more attacking. Kanté is in his own position; he has endless energy and has amazing ball-winning attributes. Many compare Kanté to former Chelsea player Claude Makelele because of his defensive abilities as well as his pace, but Kanté was the heart of Leicester City’s success last season, after 5,000-1 odds of winning the Premier League. Leicester would sit back and allow teams to attack before closing in on them and getting on the counter attack, and most of the time he would be the one stealing the ball. Another attribute that goes unnoticed is his hold-up play, something he needs when he’s tackling and intercepting left and right.
For me, I thought Kanté was overrated. It wasn’t until around January of 2016 that I realized he was the real deal. During the title run with the Foxes, he had 176 tackles with a 71% tackle rate and a whopping 156 interceptions, which were both first in the league by a mile. Too add to those remarkable defensive stats, he added a goal and four assists. So far this season with Chelsea, he has 101 tackles with a 67% tackle rate, 62 interceptions, and a goal.
Kanté is a winner. He has 44 wins in 62 appearances through his two seasons in the Premier League. N’Golo Kanté is on his way to a second consecutive Premier League title. He is on his way to greatness and is only going to get better.