N’Golo Kanté has been Chelsea’s most important player since 2016, but he’s spent most of the past twelve months dealing with a series of minor injuries, which have limited him to just 22 appearances in all competitions this season. He’s never had a full season with fewer than 39 appearances in his career.
Meanwhile, he turned 29 and given Chelsea’s emphasis on youth, has been a popular name in the rumor mill, especially the Real Madrid one. And we know that once the Madrid press get a hold of a name, they won’t ever relent — regardless of any and all denials.
The latest along those lines comes from Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard himself, who’s hoping to finally have a healthy Kanté to be able to call upon. As someone who played alongside the legendary Claude Makélélé, Lampard knows just how crucial Kanté’s contributions could be to the team’s successes now and in the future.
“In terms of N’Golo, I’ve seen some talk and reports about him and his future at the club. I’ve said it a lot of times about N’Golo — one of the best midfield players in the world. I would have loved to be able to play with him.
“The type of player he is, he has everything. Coming back to Chelsea and getting the opportunity to manage this club and having N’Golo Kante is something I really want to appreciate and work with. This season, unfortunately, because of injuries, it’s been tough for N’Golo.
“It’s nice to see him a little bit fresh. One of the silver linings with this is we’ve managed to get a few players fitter and fresher. N’Golo is so important to us as a team going forward. We need him regularly and, hopefully, we will have that now.”
Kanté’s future — not just at Chelsea but perhaps in football overall — was cast in further doubt as the Premier League pushed to restart amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The midfielder, who lost a brother to a heart attack and suffered a health scare of his own two years ago, was one of the players most greatly concerned by the dangers of the disease even for younger, presumably healthier individuals like himself and his family.
But the league’s testing protocols not to mention Chelsea’s willingness to accommodate him eventually led to a u-turn from N’Golo, and he’s rejoined group contract training a couple weeks ago. To no one’s surprise, a non-injured Kanté didn’t need much time at all to get back up to speed, and as Lampard reports, is happy with how things are going at the club.
“He’s fit and he’s been training. He trained for a period with the small sessions, socially distanced type training, but he’s been training with us as a group for a while now. He’s fit as anyone else in the team and he’s naturally fit anyway.
“Was it a difficult situation? Yes, because I was very sympathetic as I think the reaction was everywhere. But I have to deal with it at close quarters, with N’Golo and his feelings. It was very genuine.
“He wanted to be clear with how it was going to work around the training ground. As I say, that’s been sorted out in the short term. He’s training and he’s happy.”
Kanté signed the most lucrative contract in Chelsea history at the start of last season, and that is set to keep him at the club until 2023. While Lampard acknowledges that the squad will go through some changes this summer as we look to build a true and consistent contender, it doesn’t sound like Kanté is anywhere near the front of the exit queue if Super Frank has his way.
“If we bring in we always want to it to be improving our squad. We will have to look at it at that point, in 10 games time, how the squad will look for next season. I want us to keep improving; I want us to keep striving; I want us to try and close the gap, which has been a pretty big gap to Liverpool and Manchester City.
“I’ve always said it’s what we do on the training daily. That’s my first job and then the players. Then can we look to improve in terms of how we build the squad? That will come after the season.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Goal
Kanté recently upgraded from his beat down Mini to something a bit nicer, a Mercedes, but as far as his choice of clubs goes, it sounds like he won’t be switching to left-hand drive cars anytime soon.