N’Golo Kanté participated in the first day of small-group training at Cobham on Tuesday, but was granted indefinite leave starting on Wednesday. He becomes the first Chelsea player to hold out due to concerns over the coronavirus and the return to football.
Kanté has a family history of heart problems, as reported by the Telegraph. His brother died of a heart attack two years ago, just before the 2018 World Cup, and Kanté himself suffered a heart condition scare around the same time when he fainted during training. Tests came back clear at the time, but these sorts of things can be notoriously hard to pin down.
Unknown underlying health conditions are one of the biggest issues brought up by several players as the Premier League press forward with Project Restart, including Watford’s Troy Deeney, who’s been the most vocal opponent of the return to training and (eventually) playing.
It’s unclear what happens next with N’Golo. The report states that he has the “full support” of Chelsea and head coach Frank Lampard in this decision, and that’s to be expected. But it’s not a long term solution — if such a thing even exists. There are no simple decisions or easy solutions here.
For now, Kanté’s staying and training at home, but conditions will not improve until there is a vaccine for COVID-19 and that’s still at least a year away. Kanté, like the rest of the squad, tested negative for the coronavirus in this week’s first round of testing.
Chelsea (and the league) have apparently reassured Kanté that all possible precautions are being taken — and, in a way, playing football will be one of the “safer” occupations going forward as economies around the world reopen and everyone goes back to work, thanks to the rigorous testing — but at the end of the day, it’s his choice and his choice alone.