Is N’Golo Kante One of France’s Greatest Midfielders?

Kante’s potential appearance in Germany for the Euro finals, likely to be his last for his country, may make the difference between whether or not the Paris-born footballer is remembered as one of the nation’s greats. After all, France has enjoyed more than its fair share of midfield masters over the years; Patrick Viera, Zinedine Zidane, and Claude Makélélé to name just three. But for those who have followed his career, particularly fans of Leicester City and Chelsea, Kante is already a hero. And in their eyes, he’s one of the best of all time. They may be right.

Legend at Leicester

It’s easy to forget how instrumental he was in guiding Leicester City to the Premier League title in 2016. They were 5000-1 outsiders that year. No one gave them a chance. But miraculously they did it, prompting the great Sir Alex Ferguson to hail Kante the best player in the Premier League. The Foxes would have loved to have kept him. But nowadays they’re fighting for the second-tier title. Thankfully for Leicester City fans, they are favourites to win promotion with English Championship betting odds of 4/5 to return to the top flight.

They’re also tipped to win the division outright at 11/5. Using the Betfair Bet Calculator, 10 credits on Leicester City to win promotion and win the English Championship outright would return 47.60 credits. It’s a small sum that tells us more about the weaknesses in the division than it does about Leicester City’s favourites’ tag. Suffice to say, they’ll need another Kante-like player to stay in the Premier League if they do win their place back in the top flight.

A tireless ability to win the ball

What made Kante so good – and Leicester so effective in their title-winning season – was his ability to win the ball. His 175 tackles in 2015-2016 and 156 inceptions were more than any other player that season. It saw the club’s head of recruitment Steve Walsh say the Foxes play with 12 men because Kante’s contribution is that of two players, not one.

His qualities saw him earn a big-money move to Chelsea. It was the same year L’Équipe named him the world’s sixth-best footballer. He would help Chelsea win the Premier League in his first season and was subsequently named the Premier League Player of the Season and nominated for the coveted Ballon d’Or. During his time in London he’d also add another string to his bow: goals. Indeed, he’d contribute 13 goals and 16 assists before his move to Saudi Arabia.

His man-of-the-match performance in the Champions League Final in 2021, when Chelsea beat Man City, is perhaps the game when people really started to consider Kante as one of the all-time best. Along with his star performances for France at the 2018 World Cup in which he helped his country lift the trophy, Kante has proven himself to be a defensive midfield powerhouse.

While N’Golo Kante may be on the wrong side of 30, his move to the Saudi Pro League was disappointing for many who felt he still had a few years left at the top level. Signing for Al-Ittihad doesn’t stop him being called up for international duty, but there’s a feeling national team manager Didier Deschamps will look elsewhere for his midfield starters when it comes to Euro 2024. Whatever happens in the remainder of his career, Kante deserves to be remembered as a French footballing legend.

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