N'Golo Kanté: An Underrated Gem
- We take a look at the rise of N'Golo Kanté and his journey to becoming a world-class footballer.
N'Golo Kanté's rise to the top of football has been nothing short of inspiring. He is perhaps the most complete footballer in the world and his work is often unnoticed and underappreciated. His journey is an epitome of what football truly means and what pertinacious determination can do to a man's life.
Five years ago, no one outside of Northern France had heard the name of N'Golo Kanté. He was a relatively unknown quantity plying his trade for Caen in the Ligue 1 and his footballing prowess was only known to the most studious fans of the game. When he was brought to the Premier League by Leicester, it was deemed to be a failed transfer.
While Leicester wreaked havoc in the Premier League, breaking all records on the way to doing the unthinkable, there was one man quietly pulling the strings in midfield, pickpocketing forwards, running miles and slowly but steadily steering Leicester towards the shore. Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez took the individual honours away but the Foxes knew that a certain Frenchman was at the heart of their triumph.
Kanté then moved to Chelsea and practically solved all their woes by adding stability to their midfield that they lacked since the era of Frank Lampard. Chelsea won the Premier League in the 2016/17 season and the one similarity they had with the Foxes' win was N'Golo Kanté.
In today's world, young players do not go on to dominate if they are not touted as "the next big thing" in their early days. But Kanté slipped through, outpaced everyone and surprised the footballing fraternity with his rocket-like rise.
France won the World Cup last year and proved themselves to the world. Some were relishing the mouth-watering backheels of the wonderboy, Kylian Mbappe. Others were savouring the finishing of Antoine Griezmann. Amid all this, Kanté was the dark horse in the success of France. From shutting down Lionel Messi to stopping Romelu Lukaku, Kanté was everywhere. He was their engine running at full throttle, refusing to slow down.
What makes you admire him even further is that Kanté isn't at his best yet! Kanté has been improving in the offensive phase this season under Maurizio Sarri and has ended up scoring and assisting more than he has in the past two seasons.
Chelsea fans know what N'Golo Kanté means and what he means to the club and football in general. But too often, Kanté is forgotten when the best players in the world are talked about. Maybe it's because he doesn't do fancy stepovers or maybe because he doesn't have a trademark celebration.
But Kanté's work is perhaps the most underrated in the world. His impact on a game is enormous regardless of the opposition, to an extent that he has arguably been the most important player in the Chelsea squad. And that in itself is a huge statement when Chelsea possess the best left-winger in the world, namely Eden Hazard.
Kanté might never win the Ballon D'Or nor will he win the Golden Boot or anything. But the fact is, Kanté doesn't care, it doesn't matter to him if he is winning personal accolades or not. He is probably too shy to even receive an award, something that was seen when he touched the World Cup trophy.
It is indeed a treat to watch Kanté play with such a positive attitude. Kanté's work should be appreciated more and more as he continues to work hard and breath his lungs out. France and Chelsea will forever be grateful for what Kanté has done and it's time we all appreciate the man and the footballer, N'Golo Kanté.Published 19 Apr 2019, 15:02 IST