|N’Golo Kante is never one to seize the spotlight, but football’s biggest individual honors would be a deserved reward for the Chelsea and France midfielder. David Ramos/Getty Images|
Why N’Golo Kante deserves the Ballon d’Or over Lewandowski, Messi, Ronaldo & Co. in 2021
After N’Golo Kante walked to the France national Club at Nice on Tuesday and Olivier Giroud and Kurt Zouma, his Chelsea teammates, he was greeted with huge cheers and applause. Subsequently, on Saturday evening, the French team and director Didier Deschamps and his team saw the Champions League final collectively, once more in complete amazement of the No. 13’s functionality.
Even after all these years, 45 national team caps and counting because 2016 — Kante nevertheless manages to surprise even his nearest friends and mates with all the performances he turns in from week to week.
When Kante came, finishing Les Bleus’ 26-man squad to the Euros, a number of the group welcomed him with all the Ballon d’Or therapy. It had been half-joking, half-serious, but a few teammates told him that he had been on the golden route to acquire the gold ball.
Others wondered whether he had run the whole way from London to southern France before the friendly using Wales (that the entire world winners won 3-0) while Deschamps, as always, had alternative banter.
But down deep, the coach and this group understand how blessed they are to own such a player in his group. Since Olivier Giroud told ESPN: “N’Golo is just extraordinary.
It is not only the running and also the attempt or the chunks recovered. It’s everything he can. You truly believe you are playing 12 players when he’s there on the pitch.”
Like many others, the Chelsea striker believes Kante can and should win the Ballon d’Or after the season. The consensus in France is that if Les Bleus have a successful Euros, the former Caen and Leicester player will be right at the top of the list.
After winning the Bundesliga title with Bayern Munich and establishing a domestic record for most goals in a season (41) along the way, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are always in the mix Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema if they play well this summer. But Kante, who turned 30 at the end of March, has to be the favorite.
Kante’s playing has improved dramatically since Thomas Tuchel arrived at Stamford Bridge at the end of January. The German coach has long admired Kante’s abilities and attempted to bring him to PSG. They worked hard together at Chelsea to improve the Frenchman’s positioning, ball retention, and ball advancement; Tuchel also gave him the confidence and freedom to roam and perform against Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, Manchester City, and other top teams.
Like the Chelsea boss said to RMC Sport after their 1-0 win at Anfield back in March: “[Kante] is a gift. With my staff, we can’t believe what he does. We get his data after his games and even after his training sessions and we can’t believe his figures. He really is a gift.”
Paul Pogba was a close friend of Kante for many years, but he also is flabbergasted. He told French TV two weeks back: “Kante’s got everything. He is good technically, using a great departure quality, and he is anywhere on the pitch.
He works for 11 players. I say he looks from the floor! You do not see himand’poof,’ he is there! He receives the ballhe could complete. He is everywhere. To get a player like this from the side, what more could you request?”
There is one more thing that appeals to Kante, and that is how he’d signify success for”regular” players using a Ballon d’Or rather than their everyday superstars.
He’s helped redefine how people view soccer; it is not just about strikers and goal scorers, but more about the gamers that struggle for the group and sacrifice themselves to the increased assignment.
Kante also signifies people who had to struggle for all; after all, he made his professional debut at 22 decades old and France’s third branch. He’d be an ideal post-pandemic winner, a sterile winner, a humble and small winner. He’d be a top-rated winner, also.
Looking through the archives, no genuine defensive midfielder has won the Ballon d’Or. Only one baseball player, Fabio Cannavaro in 2006, has maintained the prize in today’s age; the nearest to Kante’s profile and position could maybe be Lothar Matthaus, who won it in 1990, but the Germany good had a very distinct fashion as a deep-lying playmaker or even”sweeper.”
Luka Modric, the 2018 champion, was also a playmaker. But, if he received it last year, when he led Croatia to the World Cup final, when they lost to Les Bleus, and won his fourth Champions League trophy with Real Madrid, there’s no reason why Kante won’t get it this year if France does well at the Euros. Franz Beckenbauer and Mathias Sammer, two further similarities for Kante, played as “No. 6” during their careers.
Still, both won the Ballon d’Or following strong seasons as converted center-backs.
As much as Kante would want to win the world’s most coveted individual prize, he would probably despise it as well. As a result, he appears to avoid situations when he is the center of attention.
He asked Benjamin Mendy not to sing the Kante song too much after France won the 2018 World Cup and celebrated with the supporters at the Stade de France a few weeks later.
Next, he told a pitchside reporter that he didn’t feel comfortable interviewing after Chelsea’s Champions League semifinal second leg against Real Madrid (he won the award in three of Chelsea’s six knockout games on the way to the title, as well as in the final) because it was a team win, not just his. Then he drove his Mini out of Stamford Bridge…
That’s Kante for you. He’s so shy that you never hear him speak on the pitch, or very rarely. With a huge smile, Riyad Mahrez remembers one of the rare times he did: “When we were at Leicester together, I knew I didn’t have to defend because Kante was behind me and he would defend for two. And you know how shy he is so he didn’t use to say anything. But one day, during a game, I heard his little voice saying ‘hey Riyad, do you mind just defending a little bit, please?'”
Off the field, it’s pretty different, though, as Pogba explains: “He cheats a lot. A lot. At card games, board games. Honestly, I’m telling the truth. He cheats. He says he doesn’t cheat, but he does. He uses cunning. He’s a smart kid, N’Golo. But it’s OK. You have to love him. He’s the most beloved player in the history of football. You’ve got to love him; you cannot hate him, it is not possible. He is humble, kind, professional. He will never complain. He will work.”
Trying to win a card game at all costs should not prevent you from winning the Ballon d’Or. So far, 2021 belongs to Kante, and if the second part of the year is like the first, it will be impossible not to give him the trophy.