Is this energetic midfielder Leicester City’s unsung hero?
Ever since his arrival in the summer transfer window from French outfit SM Caen; N’Golo Kanté has been playing a pivotal role in Leicester’s success this season. The Foxes paid a good chunk of money to the tune of £5.6 million in order to ensure that they got their man.
The Frenchman is certainly a favourite of Claudio Ranieri who has described him as his “star pupil” due to his adaptive and attentive nature and how quickly he has established himself in the English game. The plaudits haven’t stopped there from Ranieri who said that he could play the same role as Claude Makélélé – a player who was brought to Chelsea by Ranieri in 2003.
Since his arrival in Leicester in early August, Kanté has been an ever-present for Claudio Ranieri’s men and this is in no small part to his fantastic attitude off the pitch as well as on it. It is because of this that the Frenchman has been able to play with head of a seasoned veteran this season and has made the defensive midfielder role his own. Ranieri has said that Kanté is massively popular within the team and is always looking for ways to improve and learn as a footballer. While Kanté will be aware that he may not draw the headlines as much as some of his others team-mates, it is his tireless attitude that perfectly embodies how Leicester are presenting themselves this season and is why he has been able to play such a crucial role at the King Power Stadium despite having only 4 months of playing time in England.
Kanté had to settle for a wider role earlier in the season at the King Power Stadium but has now found himself drifting inside into the central midfielder role where he is flourishing under the stewardship of Ranieri. The former Chelsea boss stated in September: ‘If you remember well, Makélélé was a winger at the beginning of his career and then he came inside for Celta Vigo in Spain, then with Real Madrid and then with us at Chelsea.’
Leicester scouts have been doing some fantastic work in recent years, bringing in the likes of Vardy and Mahrez. However, it appears that the Frenchman could prove to be just as clever an acquisition as either of Leicester’s standout stars who seemingly hog all of the back pages up and down the country. Kanté has been quietly learning his trade in English football and is putting in performances which may not necessarily catch the eye as much as some of his teammates further up the field, but have played just as important a role as any other member of the team.
Kanté provides Leicester with a balance that allows them to transition up the field effortlessly and spread the ball out into space further up the park for their pacey forwards to run into. He is also quickly gaining a reputation as an engine in the heart of the midfield who never stops running – the Frenchman recovered the ball more than anyone else in Europe’s top five leagues last season and he is still showing the desire and work-rate that earned him a move to the Premier League in the first place. However, it isn’t just the work-rate that makes Kanté stand out from the crowd. He is an excellent tackler and despite his small stature he is solid and can completely take players out of the game with his tactical knowledge and positioning. Also, much like the aforementioned Makélélé – the former Caen man can quickly regain possession and play a sharp pass into more attacking players in order to start an attacking move. This skill is one that doesn’t often draw the headlines but is invaluable to any team at any level.
The continuing development and learning for N’Golo Kanté will be a very interesting one as at only 24, he still has years to perfect his craft and could easily see himself become one of the Premier League’s star centre midfielders should he continue to improve as rapidly as he is now. The Frenchman is slowly starting to garner more attention from football fans and pundits as his performances continue to improve and it is thoroughly deserved. It remains to be seen as to whether Leicester can maintain their excellent form into the second half of the season, but you feel that if the likes of Vardy, Mahrez, and Kanté keep firing on all cylinders that they will be incredibly difficult to stop.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Alex Hannam
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