Per a recording obtained by Mediapart, a former adviser of N’Golo Kanté, Rachid Saadna, threatened the Chelsea man during a 2017 meeting and brought his brother with him whom Saadna claims “may have been carrying a gun”.
In March 2017, N’Golo Kanté returned from London to celebrate his 26th birthday with his family in the suburb of Géraniums à Rueil-Malmaison, where his mother still lives.
From this neighbourhood, Kanté is from a very modest family of Malian immigrants, the Chelsea man was one of eight children and has been fatherless since the age of 11. The story of “NG” is nothing short of a fairytale: a EURO 2016 finalist, champion of England with Leicester, Chelsea player since July 2016 earning at least €5m a year post-tax and a 2018 world champion.
But his March 2017 stay in Rueil quickly turned into a nightmare. There, N’Golo Kanté was confronted by several men. Among them, two brothers from Nanterre, who threatened to kill his agent if Kanté did not sack him. At the heart of this dispute, quite simply, is money.
Saadna was one of the two men. He has been one of Kanté’s advisors and moves in circles close to the player’s official agent, Abdelkarim Douis, who is a 32-year-old also from Nanterre. As revealed last year, it was Douis who convinced the player to initially create a company in the tax haven of Jersey.
Eight months prior to March 2017, Douis pocketed a €4.8m commission on Kanté’s transfer from Leicester to Chelsea, which he cashed in via his own Jersey offshore company. Saadna wanted what he felt was his fair share of the commission, which Douis did not pay him as apparently promised, according to Mediapart. To settle this dispute, Saadna called upon the help of his brother Houari.
Speaking in an interview with Mediapart, Kanté has denied that he was threatened by the Saadna brothers, but does acknowledge that a “discussion” took place that day with the relevant individuals. Multiple sources have confirmed that this meeting took place, including an audio recording that has been obtained by Mediapart.
In this recording, Rachid Saadna recounts that “maybe my brother was carrying a gun,” but that he did not point the “caliber” at N’Golo Kanté: “My brother came intelligently… he did not come [to exert] violence on the little one. He gave him a choice.”
A chilling comment, followed up with an additional phrase explaining how his brother Houari Saadna framed the situation to N’Golo Kanté: “My brother has been cheated, robbed, injured… I give you the choice. You work with a lawyer and you stop working with the other (guy, his agent Douis). Listen, I am not joking, either you sort this out or Karim Douis, I finish him, that will be it.”
Rachid Saadna claims that he signed with N’Golo Kanté, in the days after this meeting, a sports representation contract between them both. Saadna adds in the recording: “We did not force N’Golo (to do anything).”
But his official agent at the time and still now, Abdelkarim Douis, managed to counteract this manoeuvre. According to the recording, he called a close friend of the Saadna brothers to give them this message: “My player, you wanted to steal from me. In any case the little one is traumatised, I am going to send him to the police station.”
Contacted by Mediapart, Abdelkarim Douis has denied making these comments. In a series of written answers to the outlet, he claims that he was “unaware” of the threats made against Kanté, before changing his tune somewhat and claiming that “it never happened”. Neither Houari nor Rachid Saadna accepted to speak with Mediapart on this matter.
N’Golo Kanté never took this matter to the authorities and the case was apparently settled some time later in an amicable fashion. In November 2018, when Douis negotiated a contract extension for Kanté, the agent indeed shared a commission paid by Chelsea with Rachid Saadna, despite the latter individual having made his threats 18 months prior.
Many questions arise out of all this, but chief among them is the following: is N’Golo Kanté being taken advantage of by the people around him?
That is in any case how Rachid Saadna feels, ironically from the mouth of the man who tried to extort Kanté. In this recording obtained by Mediapart, Saadna describes Kanté’s primary agent Abdelkarim Douis as a man “who only has money in his heart” and who wants to be “the only person” to control the player’s interests. He adds that Douis has “eaten [Kanté’s] brain.”
Douis claimed in his answers to Mediapart to have “no problem” with Saadna. Saadna’s claims are backed up by what many sources have informed Mediapart about their fears around what is happening to the immense wealth that Kanté is amassing. For example, despite his more than comfortable income, the French international owns no real estate assets, despite having told multiple people close to him that he wanted to put his family in comfort and buy a house for his mother.
Several relatives of the player have told Mediapart that they have brought their concerns to Kanté directly. These sources claim that the player did not deny the story of being threatened with a gun as the rumour spread across Nanterre, but was embarrassed and cut the conversations short. One of his friends added: “This reaction did not surprise me. N’Golo is extremely discreet and speaks very little, especially about his problems. When people tell him of falsehoods, he denies them. When people tell him truths, he dodges.” Another source told Get French Football News: “From what I know of Kanté, he is physically unable to lie. The closest that he diverges from exemplary behaviour is with a few tricks when playing cards.”
In written answers to Mediapart sent by N’Golo Kanté’s lawyer, the French international has denied lacking control of his affairs: “You seem to take me for an immature person, but I know my responsibilities, I make my choices freely and in good conscience.”
Another advisor of Kanté’s claims to have heard about the story of him being threatened with a weapon. His name is Nouari Khiari, a 52-year-old also from Nanterre, to whom Kanté had entrusted the commercialisation of his image rights and whom the French international today wants to part ways with.
On 29th May 2019, Khiari himself lodged a formal legal case at the Suresnes police station for “death threats” that he claims were made against him by Kanté’s primary agent, Abdelkarim Douis.
Khiari affirmed to law enforcement that after hearing about the “rumours” of individuals threatening the player with a gun, he went to London on 22nd May 2017 to “shine light on the claims”.
Khiari said that the meeting was attended by a witness at the Chelsea Harbour Hotel, a stones throw away from Stamford Bridge. “To my surprise, Abdelkarim Douis confirmed to me that the story was true,” Khiari testified per police records. He claims that in March 2017, Douis told him that “armed people,” including Rachid and Houari Saadna, had “gone to Géraniums à Rueil-Malmaison” to force N’Golo Kanté “to sign a sports representation contract.”
In his testimony, Khiari added that Douis instructed him not to interfere: “Whoever is after me, I have too many guys… I know Russians, Albanians, guys I pay and they smoke (kill) who I want.” Khiari claimed to have told Douis that he would get the police involved if needed in order to protect Kanté. As the pair parted ways, Douis told Khiari: “Look after yourself.”
The witness who is said to have also attended this meeting, a London-based lawyer, refused to answer questions put to them by Mediapart.
Douis denies having made the comments that Khiari claims he uttered, suggesting instead that the latter individual is seeking “revenge”. Douis has described Khiari as “a liar” who “defrauded” Kanté. Douis has since told L’Équipe that a suit was filed against Khiari this Tuesday for “death threats, wilful violence and slanderous denunciation.” Douis did not wish to provide any evidence backing up his claims. Khiari has fired back to Mediapart: “It is a pure lie. Where is the material in this?”
Khiari, who remains the image rights agent for N’Golo Kanté, specified in his testimony that after his meeting with Douis in London, he spoke with “NG” directly about the matter: “He responded to me by saying that everything was sorted, that it was fine, without confirming or denying the claimed events. I then told him that if he had problems and was in serious danger that he could talk to me but he said that it was fine and that he did not want any problems.”
Kanté eventually met with Mediapart in the company of his lawyer, Mme Nadia Zrari on November 18th. During this meeting, he confirmed that he had had a “discussion” with the Saadna brothers in March 2017, but denied that he was threatened with a weapon, adding: “I find your question tendentious. I am a professional footballer, I do not live in a world of thugs.”
Mediapart insist that much like when he responded initially via written answers to questions over email, Kanté broadly ignored or failed to answer the majority of their questions during the meeting. The only points that he is understood to have put across was that he had an excellent relationship with all elements of his entourage apart from with the individual who takes care of his image rights, Nouari Khiari, who he was trying to remove from his circle.
In Part 2, you’ll find out what Khiari’s legal battle with Kanté’s clan is all about…