It’s Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte’s turn to levy some serious praise on N’Golo Kanté as talk of the diminutive midfielder possibly winning the league’s player of the year award at the end of the season heats up.
“I like a lot these type of players. I was this type of player [myself].”
“I always appreciated this type of player, with great generosity, great ability to work for the team. I think it's important to have this type of player if we want to win. Not only great talent, but players who run a lot during a game.”
Conte played over 400 games for Juventus as a combative, all-action midfielder, but also chipped in with a little over 40 goals. That’s certainly not the best ratio in the world, but compared with Kanté’s career record of 8 goals in a little over 150 games (and only 2 in the two seasons with Leicester and Chelsea), it’s easy to see where Conte might think he was stronger as a player when comparing himself with the key Chelsea man.
No, he's stronger than me. I think I was stronger than him to score goals but, in the other aspects [of being a midfielder], there is no contest. He is stronger than me."
Like Conte, Kanté is a tireless runner, a hard worker, and one who enables everyone else to be better around him. While Conte is trying to improve Kanté’s attacking and passing game, those are minor imperfections in an otherwise flawless skillset.
“He has always a smile on his face. It's fantastic, this. You try to talk with him and he's always smiling. During training sessions he works a lot, but always with a smile.”
"N'Golo is a fantastic guy, fantastic player, great commitment, great behaviour. A great example."
-Antonio Conte; source: ESPN
While Conte wasn’t about to be drawn into any end of season awards guessing, he did proclaim his sincere desire to see a Chelsea player, any Chelsea player, win it as that would likely mean that we will have gone on to win the title.
“It's very difficult to reply now to this question. I hope with all my heart that, at the end of the season, it will be a Chelsea player. Because it means that, probably, we have won the league.”
"But in this league there are a lot of great players, and not only in Chelsea but also in the other teams. I think you must deserve this title, to be the player of the year. Above all, if you win the league.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Goal
So say we all.