Leicester City are the undoubted the feel-good story of the Premier League season. From relegation battlers to champions elect, led by the ever likable Tinkerman (now with 95% less tinkering). Probably. A team put together on a budget, relatively speaking, full of previously unheralded stars and journeymen. Now, the likes of Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy, Danny Drinkwater, and N'Golo Kante are making waves not just on the pitch but off of it, in the rumor mill.
Kante, who not only collected his first two caps for France this week but also scored his first international goal, is perhaps the player whose skills should be most in demand. Mahrez certainly has oodles of skills and Vardy has that eye for goal combined with blistering pace, but Kante is that mythical Makelele-esque combination of physical and mental toughness, of tenacity and skill that defined a role ever since the former Real Madrid and Chelsea man basically invented it.
I had once hoped that Ramires could evolve into something similar, but other than a glimpse or two a few years ago, that never happened. Mikel, as we know, developed into a far more limited type of midfield anchor man, while Matic ... well, who knows what happened to Matic since that scary tackle he received from Ashley Barnes thirteen months ago. Whatever it was, it has rendered him fairly useless as far as midfield control is concerned.
While we have promise at the position when we look at the likes of Loftus-Cheek or Chalobah, Kante is the finished product. And he knows that will drive demand for him.
"I will fight for Leicester this season and next season we never know and we will see. At this moment I am focused on Leicester. We have to finish well this season but I don't mind about [being linked with] the other clubs."
"We will fight for the title but it is not [our] due. We have to fight in every game. There are seven games left. We hope to win the league, but it's not finished."
-N'Golo Kante; source: Mirror
So, that's your standard non-committal answer that we've seen recently with Courtois and many others before him. Perhaps a bit more non-committed though by pointing out that he's not minding the interest. Or perhaps not. Maybe it just makes him feel all fuzzy-wuzzy inside.
Whether Kante's saying this to start a bidding war between Chelsea and whoever else may be interested, or he's saying it to put pressure on Leicester to give him a new and improved contract worthy of the upper crust of the Premier League, or he's just covering all bases and keeping options open remains to be seen. I don't have a very good sense of where Kante's loyalties may lie -- he signed with Leicester for €8m just this past summer -- but if he's looking to cash-in on the team's success this season, he's certainly the right age (just turned 25) and has the right credentials for a proper payday.
Chelsea have been heavily linked with various midfielders already this spring. We could certainly do worse than N'Golo Kante.