For months now, Chelsea supporters have agonised over the future of two of the club’s brightest stars, Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois (although the latter’s shine has dimmed since a pair of Lionel Messi nutmegs.) The wolf at the door is usually Real Madrid, although sometimes it’s the profligate spenders from Paris.
In all of these discussions, Hazard is habitually called Chelsea’s best player. It’s almost as it it’s become part of his name; Eden “Chelsea’s Best Player” Hazard.
But is he?
After what we’ve witnessed in the last few matches — correction, after what we’ve witnessed since the club bought him two summers ago — there’s a strong case to be made that Chelsea’s best player is actually N’Golo Kanté.
Against Barcelona alone he recovered 13 balls, won 12 duels, won eight out of eight tackles attempted, made four interceptions and had three successful dribbles. He’s become not only a midfield enforcer but also, under Antonio Conte’s tutelage, a very effective ball-carrier. He can bring the ball up the middle of the pitch under pressure, breaking the press and leaving would-be tacklers in his wake.
And, as he showed us against Leicester, he can also cross.
Pedro drops deep to receive the ball and passes to Morata who plays it wide to Kanté while Pedro continue his run into the box where he's found by the Frenchman's cross which he heads over Schmeichel to score. 1-2. #CFC pic.twitter.com/gYMGTw5NID— Chelsea GIFs (@ChelseaGIFs) March 18, 2018
Whew! Is there anything he can’t do?
And another question; given all of that, isn’t Kanté the man we should be most worried about losing to a poacher? As if on cue, in March rumors started floating, not for the first time, that Paris Saint-Germain were making the midfield maestro their top transfer priority in the summer.
INFO @telefoot_TF1 : Qui pour remplacer Thiago Motta ? @nglkante et Fabinho sont suivis par le @PSG_inside pic.twitter.com/yfMhyDWudR— Téléfoot (@telefoot_TF1) March 11, 2018
While he’s on duty with France, someone got around to asking N’Golo what he thought of the chatter. You’ll be delighted to read his emphatic answer.
“I am at home. It is my club, I am a Chelsea player.”
“This is my second year at Chelsea. After what happened last season, it was a very good one for us because we got to celebrate winning the title.”
”In the second season, I have got to play in the Champions League and we are going again to finish in the top four.”
Be still my heart! How can you not love this player? Not just his wanting to stay at Chelsea, but also his positive outlook. “We are going to finish again in the top four.” That’s how you do it. He’s looking forward to a strong end to the season.
“We will fight until the end to finish in the top four and to get in a Champions League position.”
”We also have the FA Cup to play for - it is a good competition. Last season we failed in the final. It is the only trophy we can win this season, so we have to give everything to get to the final and win it.”
-N’Golo Kanté; source: London Evening Standard
The Standard’s Simon Johnson, who tends to be a reliable source for information on Chelsea, has written before that the Frenchman is not inclined to play in France again, having joined Leicester after two seasons at Caen and knowing Ligue 1 inside out.
Obviously, Chelsea aren’t looking to sell him either, and still have him under contract for three more years at an estimated £150,000 per week.
Player happy? Check. Club happy? Check. Fans delighted? You betcha!