If you got a sinking feeling when you saw that N’Golo Kanté, the best defensive midfielder in the planetary system, wouldn’t be in Sunday’s team against Manchester City, an outfit that score for fun, you weren’t the only one. As it turns out, that was the least of our concerns.
On Sunday it was vaguely reported that Kanté was simply feeling ill on the team bus. According to the exclusive report by Matt Law in the Telegraph, Kanté had fainted after Friday’s training session, shocking the rest of his teammates and his coaches who feared that he had just suffered a heart attack.
Myocardial infarctions are not unknown even for athletes in their prime. Former Newcastle midfield Cheick Tioté, just 30, died of a heart attack while training with his team in China. Marc-Vivien Foé, Miklós Fehér, Dani Jarque, and even 17-year-old Joel Lobanzo of Anderlecht last November immediately come to mind of players tragically taken from us due to heart attacks or heart conditions. And on Sunday the football world was shaken again with the news that Italy international Davide Astori had died of a suspected heart attack overnight. He was just 31.
Law reports that Chelsea doctors tended to 26 year-old Kanté within seconds on Friday. Once he recovered he was sent to a specialist for a battery of heart tests, all of which reportedly came back clear.
(It’s worth noting, by the way, that an athlete’s heart isn’t necessarily the same as yours or mine. The demands of endurance sports like football enlarge the heart and thicken its muscle walls, actually reducing function. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, although it can be.)
Theoretically then, Kanté was cleared to play on Sunday. But on the team bus he reported not feeling well. In an abundance of sensible caution, and amid the shocking news of Astori’s death, it was decided to rest him.
Law reports that Kanté went through Monday’s training session with no ill effects. Apparently healthy, he’s now cleared to play in Saturday’s must-win match against Crystal Palace.
Thank goodness, twice over. Once for the player. And once for the man.