Champions League: Can Chelsea still count on N’Golo Kanté?

Sunday August 14, 2022. The sun is shining at Stamford Bridge and nearly 40,000 spectators are present despite the scorching heat of the London summer to come and see the first big shock of the Blues season. N’Golo Kanté’s teammates take on Tottenham’s Spurs. Five minutes from the end of the match, while the Blues were still leading 2-1 (Harry Kane equalized at the very end of the match), N’Golo Kanté left his partners limping, hit in the hamstrings.
From ? It is nothing in the season of the French international with 53 selections. If the midfielder had tried to return to competition at the end of September, in particular with a view to participating in the World Cup in Qatar with the Blues, he had to resolve to have surgery on October 18 after yet another relapse. of his injury. Only two small matches and an absence of more than six months.


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Back in training with his teammates on Monday, on the eve of Dortmund’s reception at Stamford Bridge in the knockout stages of the Champions League, Kanté finally seems to see the end of the tunnel. The midfielder, who will turn 32 on March 29, hopes to participate in the end of the season for the Blues, who are struggling in the league. He will not play against the Germans. But the main thing is elsewhere.

Since mid-February number 7 Chelsea has gradually resumed and participated in pieces of sessions with its partners. Knowing the liabilities of his player, coach Graham Potter had not wanted to take the slightest risk. “Everyone knows his qualities, said his coach at the end of 2022. It’s about helping him get back in shape, on the pitch. We can’t wait to see him play football again. N’Golo been training alone on the pitch for a few days, but he still has a very, very long way to go.”

Kante in August 2022.

Credit: Getty Images

A long road at the end of which the light seems visible again for the tireless recovery environment. But despite his return to the Chelsea squad, many questions surround the former Leicester man’s future. Will he be able to chain the matches again? Will he find the level that made him one of the best midfielders in the world?

Kanté (too) often absent

Since his arrival at Chelsea in 2016 from Leicester, the player trained at US Boulogne has often been bothered by injuries. When it’s not his hamstring that prevents him from holding his place, his ankle fails him. During the 2019/2020 season, N’Golo Kanté had missed almost 50% of his team’s matches. The following year, he had regained form by participating in 82% of Blues meetings in all competitions and had been one of the great architects of Chelsea’s coronation in the Champions League.

If this year, for the time being, he has a starving percentage of matches played (only 6%), last year too he had to be absent on several occasions due to injury. Particularly hampered by a painful knee, he had only taken part in 65% of the Blues’ matches. In six and a half seasons with the Blues, the Frenchman took part in just under two thirds of Chelsea’s games.

With his characteristic style and his XXL volume of play, Kanté will be able, after six months of stopping, to give the full measure of his talent only if his body leaves him alone again. A whole club hopes so.

A form that questions and that could condition what follows

The end of the season could also be decisive for the rest of the Frenchman’s career. At the end of the contract next June, and despite this long absence, Kanté has no shortage of suitors. If FC Barcelona had tried to recruit the French midfielder last summer, there is no doubt that the Blaugrana will return to the charge in a few weeks. Real Madrid or even PSG have also been attracted for a time by the profile of the 2018 world champion.

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But in recent weeks, according to the British press, a contract extension at Chelsea has become more and more topical. There is no doubt that if N’Golo Kanté regains his level quickly, the leaders of the Blues will do everything to keep their midfield for some more time in south-west London.


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