It may not look the part but N’Golo Kanté will be turning 30 by the end of the month. It is rather difficult to imagine him being so old (for a footballer) by just looking at his still young face, or the kind of performances he puts on for Chelsea where tiredness is apparently not a factor for him.
Surely we cannot be fooled by appearances as the run of injuries he had in the past showed that even though he is a truly special player, he still needs to be handled with care. Something that Thomas Tuchel took to heart, and it has been working rather well for him in those first 13, and still unbeaten, matches as Chelsea boss.
Tuchel is also learning why Kanté has become an integral part of any manager’s plan at the Bridge. It is the apparently little things he do on the pitch, such as being in the right place at the right time to intercept dangerous passes, that end up becoming massive contributions to our performances — especially when they lead to goals, as it happened yesterday against Atlético Madrid in the Champions League.
“I never know the age of my players just from performance. If you play with [Kanté], you play with half a man more because he gives intensity and volume that is outstanding and is unique.
“It is a pleasure to coach him, a big gift for me, such a big helper on the pitch; and don’t underestimate his quality in using [the ball], escaping the pressure.”
Although Kanté might be a player and a half when properly put to use, he still needs a proper partner to function to the best of his abilities. And Mateo Kovacic has been a pretty good complement to him since his arrival from Real Madrid back in 2018, not just with his famed progressive ball carries but also with key tackles and interceptions whenever and wherever needed.
“He can improve with the ball, but it is fantastic to have him. [Mateo Kovacic] and him needed to step up [yesterday against Atlético] and the two knew they could be relied upon, they took all the weight on their shoulders and did a fantastic job.”
-Thomas Tuchel; Source: Goal
Do not be surprised if they turn out to be giants!