Insight

Sacré bleu

We’ve collated expert opinions and revealing statistics to confirm that N’Golo Kanté is a modern-day legend

WORDS Simon Hart | ILLUSTRATION Dan Evans

Find someone who doesn’t have a soft spot for N’Golo Kanté and in pretty short order we’ll find you a bare-faced liar. Kai Havertz, his Chelsea team-mate and scorer of the winning goal in the Champions League final, summed it up: “When you see him, you have to smile. He is a great personality and a great person.”

Kanté was named man of the match for his performance in Porto. He’s being touted as the Ballon d’Or winner too – although, as you’d expect, he’s self-effacing on that subject. “What I hear can be touching, but I try to do what I have always done: be natural and give my best on the pitch,” he said. “If it can give people pleasure, so much the better.”

It certainly gives his captain pleasure. “He does everything!” said a breathless César Azpilicueta after they beat Manchester City – and with some justification. Note the stats: 11 duels won, ten recoveries and, just for good measure, even four successful aerial challenges. It’s also worth mentioning that he was man of the match in both legs of Chelsea’s semi-final against Real Madrid too.

Azpilicueta was not the only one praising Kanté’s contribution; UEFA’s team of technical observers for the 2020/21 Champions League campaign did the same. John Peacock, who was the match observer at Stamford Bridge for that second leg against Madrid, highlighted his “work rate, transitions, forward runs with the ball, and simple and effective passing”. No player covered more than the Frenchman’s 11.8km that evening and Peacock reiterated the message after the final, outlining how Kanté had “intercepted the ball constantly and then instigated attacks”, either with his passing or by carrying the ball.

This last point about Kanté getting forward to break the line himself is a by-product of his partnership with Jorginho. As Patrick Vieira, another of those technical observers, explained: “Jorginho’s position and his quality allowed Kanté to express himself more, to go forward more. This partnership is really strong for Chelsea.”

"Exceptional but still endearingly modest. I love this kid, He is a team player and his heart is massive."

Find someone who doesn’t have a soft spot for N’Golo Kanté and in pretty short order we’ll find you a bare-faced liar. Kai Havertz, his Chelsea team-mate and scorer of the winning goal in the Champions League final, summed it up: “When you see him, you have to smile. He is a great personality and a great person.”

Kanté was named man of the match for his performance in Porto. He’s being touted as the Ballon d’Or winner too – although, as you’d expect, he’s self-effacing on that subject. “What I hear can be touching, but I try to do what I have always done: be natural and give my best on the pitch,” he said. “If it can give people pleasure, so much the better.”

It certainly gives his captain pleasure. “He does everything!” said a breathless César Azpilicueta after they beat Manchester City – and with some justification. Note the stats: 11 duels won, ten recoveries and, just for good measure, even four successful aerial challenges. It’s also worth mentioning that he was man of the match in both legs of Chelsea’s semi-final against Real Madrid too.

Azpilicueta was not the only one praising Kanté’s contribution; UEFA’s team of technical observers for the 2020/21 Champions League campaign did the same. John Peacock, who was the match observer at Stamford Bridge for that second leg against Madrid, highlighted his “work rate, transitions, forward runs with the ball, and simple and effective passing”. No player covered more than the Frenchman’s 11.8km that evening and Peacock reiterated the message after the final, outlining how Kanté had “intercepted the ball constantly and then instigated attacks”, either with his passing or by carrying the ball.

This last point about Kanté getting forward to break the line himself is a by-product of his partnership with Jorginho. As Patrick Vieira, another of those technical observers, explained: “Jorginho’s position and his quality allowed Kanté to express himself more, to go forward more. This partnership is really strong for Chelsea.”

"Exceptional but still endearingly modest. I love this kid, He is a team player and his heart is massive."

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Kanté now plays more like an old-fashioned box-to-box midfielder, rather than the holding midfielder he established himself as when helping Leicester City win the Premier League in 2016. According to observer and Belgium coach Roberto Martínez, Kanté’s success should be a lesson to managers to think twice before pigeonholing a player. “The real quality of Kanté is when he can be a box-to-box midfielder. When you have a back three with someone like Jorginho, who’s going to stay behind, you’re giving that freedom to Kanté and he becomes one of the best in the world.

“It’s interesting that certain positions can be fashionable. In the past six or seven years, Kanté hasn’t been able to play to this strength. As coaches we try to be very disciplined and we limit these players: ‘No, you’re a defensive midfielder, you need to be behind the ball,’ or, ‘No, you’re an attacking midfielder, leave the defensive duties for a deeper player.’ What Tuchel has done incredibly well for Kanté is he’s said, ‘No, you are just yourself, box to box.’ And that has made him exceptional.”

Exceptional but still endearingly modest, according to former France and Arsenal midfielder Vieira, a man who knows plenty about leading from the centre of the pitch. “I love this kid,” he said. “He is a team player and his heart is massive. He is a player that doesn’t get a lot of credit. He doesn’t score goals, he is not a flashy person. But it is a strength to have players like him who think about the team before thinking about themselves. I hope he will get really close to the Ballon d’Or as that will show this position is as important as the guy who scores the goals.”

So can Kanté do no wrong? “N’Golo cheats loads when you play him at cards or board games, even in possession games in training,” said his France team-mate Paul Pogba, hinting at a dark side. “He says he doesn’t cheat but he’s a cunning one is N’Golo, and he gets away with it. He’s the most loved footballer in the history of the game. You can’t dislike him. He’s humble, kind, professional. He never complains and he works hard.”

Looks like that’s the closest you’ll get to a bad word about this little midfield colossus.

This is based on an article from the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League technical report, available on uefa.com in September

Find someone who doesn’t have a soft spot for N’Golo Kanté and in pretty short order we’ll find you a bare-faced liar. Kai Havertz, his Chelsea team-mate and scorer of the winning goal in the Champions League final, summed it up: “When you see him, you have to smile. He is a great personality and a great person.”

Kanté was named man of the match for his performance in Porto. He’s being touted as the Ballon d’Or winner too – although, as you’d expect, he’s self-effacing on that subject. “What I hear can be touching, but I try to do what I have always done: be natural and give my best on the pitch,” he said. “If it can give people pleasure, so much the better.”

It certainly gives his captain pleasure. “He does everything!” said a breathless César Azpilicueta after they beat Manchester City – and with some justification. Note the stats: 11 duels won, ten recoveries and, just for good measure, even four successful aerial challenges. It’s also worth mentioning that he was man of the match in both legs of Chelsea’s semi-final against Real Madrid too.

Azpilicueta was not the only one praising Kanté’s contribution; UEFA’s team of technical observers for the 2020/21 Champions League campaign did the same. John Peacock, who was the match observer at Stamford Bridge for that second leg against Madrid, highlighted his “work rate, transitions, forward runs with the ball, and simple and effective passing”. No player covered more than the Frenchman’s 11.8km that evening and Peacock reiterated the message after the final, outlining how Kanté had “intercepted the ball constantly and then instigated attacks”, either with his passing or by carrying the ball.

This last point about Kanté getting forward to break the line himself is a by-product of his partnership with Jorginho. As Patrick Vieira, another of those technical observers, explained: “Jorginho’s position and his quality allowed Kanté to express himself more, to go forward more. This partnership is really strong for Chelsea.”

"Exceptional but still endearingly modest. I love this kid, He is a team player and his heart is massive."

Sacré bleu
Insight

Sacré bleu

We’ve collated expert opinions and revealing statistics to confirm that N’Golo Kanté is a modern-day legend

WORDS Simon Hart | ILLUSTRATION Dan Evans

Find someone who doesn’t have a soft spot for N’Golo Kanté and in pretty short order we’ll find you a bare-faced liar. Kai Havertz, his Chelsea team-mate and scorer of the winning goal in the Champions League final, summed it up: “When you see him, you have to smile. He is a great personality and a great person.”

Kanté was named man of the match for his performance in Porto. He’s being touted as the Ballon d’Or winner too – although, as you’d expect, he’s self-effacing on that subject. “What I hear can be touching, but I try to do what I have always done: be natural and give my best on the pitch,” he said. “If it can give people pleasure, so much the better.”

It certainly gives his captain pleasure. “He does everything!” said a breathless César Azpilicueta after they beat Manchester City – and with some justification. Note the stats: 11 duels won, ten recoveries and, just for good measure, even four successful aerial challenges. It’s also worth mentioning that he was man of the match in both legs of Chelsea’s semi-final against Real Madrid too.

Azpilicueta was not the only one praising Kanté’s contribution; UEFA’s team of technical observers for the 2020/21 Champions League campaign did the same. John Peacock, who was the match observer at Stamford Bridge for that second leg against Madrid, highlighted his “work rate, transitions, forward runs with the ball, and simple and effective passing”. No player covered more than the Frenchman’s 11.8km that evening and Peacock reiterated the message after the final, outlining how Kanté had “intercepted the ball constantly and then instigated attacks”, either with his passing or by carrying the ball.

This last point about Kanté getting forward to break the line himself is a by-product of his partnership with Jorginho. As Patrick Vieira, another of those technical observers, explained: “Jorginho’s position and his quality allowed Kanté to express himself more, to go forward more. This partnership is really strong for Chelsea.”

"Exceptional but still endearingly modest. I love this kid, He is a team player and his heart is massive."

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

Find someone who doesn’t have a soft spot for N’Golo Kanté and in pretty short order we’ll find you a bare-faced liar. Kai Havertz, his Chelsea team-mate and scorer of the winning goal in the Champions League final, summed it up: “When you see him, you have to smile. He is a great personality and a great person.”

Kanté was named man of the match for his performance in Porto. He’s being touted as the Ballon d’Or winner too – although, as you’d expect, he’s self-effacing on that subject. “What I hear can be touching, but I try to do what I have always done: be natural and give my best on the pitch,” he said. “If it can give people pleasure, so much the better.”

It certainly gives his captain pleasure. “He does everything!” said a breathless César Azpilicueta after they beat Manchester City – and with some justification. Note the stats: 11 duels won, ten recoveries and, just for good measure, even four successful aerial challenges. It’s also worth mentioning that he was man of the match in both legs of Chelsea’s semi-final against Real Madrid too.

Azpilicueta was not the only one praising Kanté’s contribution; UEFA’s team of technical observers for the 2020/21 Champions League campaign did the same. John Peacock, who was the match observer at Stamford Bridge for that second leg against Madrid, highlighted his “work rate, transitions, forward runs with the ball, and simple and effective passing”. No player covered more than the Frenchman’s 11.8km that evening and Peacock reiterated the message after the final, outlining how Kanté had “intercepted the ball constantly and then instigated attacks”, either with his passing or by carrying the ball.

This last point about Kanté getting forward to break the line himself is a by-product of his partnership with Jorginho. As Patrick Vieira, another of those technical observers, explained: “Jorginho’s position and his quality allowed Kanté to express himself more, to go forward more. This partnership is really strong for Chelsea.”

"Exceptional but still endearingly modest. I love this kid, He is a team player and his heart is massive."

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Kanté now plays more like an old-fashioned box-to-box midfielder, rather than the holding midfielder he established himself as when helping Leicester City win the Premier League in 2016. According to observer and Belgium coach Roberto Martínez, Kanté’s success should be a lesson to managers to think twice before pigeonholing a player. “The real quality of Kanté is when he can be a box-to-box midfielder. When you have a back three with someone like Jorginho, who’s going to stay behind, you’re giving that freedom to Kanté and he becomes one of the best in the world.

“It’s interesting that certain positions can be fashionable. In the past six or seven years, Kanté hasn’t been able to play to this strength. As coaches we try to be very disciplined and we limit these players: ‘No, you’re a defensive midfielder, you need to be behind the ball,’ or, ‘No, you’re an attacking midfielder, leave the defensive duties for a deeper player.’ What Tuchel has done incredibly well for Kanté is he’s said, ‘No, you are just yourself, box to box.’ And that has made him exceptional.”

Exceptional but still endearingly modest, according to former France and Arsenal midfielder Vieira, a man who knows plenty about leading from the centre of the pitch. “I love this kid,” he said. “He is a team player and his heart is massive. He is a player that doesn’t get a lot of credit. He doesn’t score goals, he is not a flashy person. But it is a strength to have players like him who think about the team before thinking about themselves. I hope he will get really close to the Ballon d’Or as that will show this position is as important as the guy who scores the goals.”

So can Kanté do no wrong? “N’Golo cheats loads when you play him at cards or board games, even in possession games in training,” said his France team-mate Paul Pogba, hinting at a dark side. “He says he doesn’t cheat but he’s a cunning one is N’Golo, and he gets away with it. He’s the most loved footballer in the history of the game. You can’t dislike him. He’s humble, kind, professional. He never complains and he works hard.”

Looks like that’s the closest you’ll get to a bad word about this little midfield colossus.

This is based on an article from the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League technical report, available on uefa.com in September

Find someone who doesn’t have a soft spot for N’Golo Kanté and in pretty short order we’ll find you a bare-faced liar. Kai Havertz, his Chelsea team-mate and scorer of the winning goal in the Champions League final, summed it up: “When you see him, you have to smile. He is a great personality and a great person.”

Kanté was named man of the match for his performance in Porto. He’s being touted as the Ballon d’Or winner too – although, as you’d expect, he’s self-effacing on that subject. “What I hear can be touching, but I try to do what I have always done: be natural and give my best on the pitch,” he said. “If it can give people pleasure, so much the better.”

It certainly gives his captain pleasure. “He does everything!” said a breathless César Azpilicueta after they beat Manchester City – and with some justification. Note the stats: 11 duels won, ten recoveries and, just for good measure, even four successful aerial challenges. It’s also worth mentioning that he was man of the match in both legs of Chelsea’s semi-final against Real Madrid too.

Azpilicueta was not the only one praising Kanté’s contribution; UEFA’s team of technical observers for the 2020/21 Champions League campaign did the same. John Peacock, who was the match observer at Stamford Bridge for that second leg against Madrid, highlighted his “work rate, transitions, forward runs with the ball, and simple and effective passing”. No player covered more than the Frenchman’s 11.8km that evening and Peacock reiterated the message after the final, outlining how Kanté had “intercepted the ball constantly and then instigated attacks”, either with his passing or by carrying the ball.

This last point about Kanté getting forward to break the line himself is a by-product of his partnership with Jorginho. As Patrick Vieira, another of those technical observers, explained: “Jorginho’s position and his quality allowed Kanté to express himself more, to go forward more. This partnership is really strong for Chelsea.”

"Exceptional but still endearingly modest. I love this kid, He is a team player and his heart is massive."

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

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