Chelsea have finalized a move to bring midfielder N'Golo Kante in from Leicester City for a reported £32 million, as Antonio Conte continues to revamp a side that fell well short of expectations last season. Kante marks Conte's second addition at Stamford Bridge, following the signing of forward Michy Batshuayi from Marseille earlier this window. A relentless defensive presence in the midfield, Kante is a player tailor-made for the new Chelsea manager.
Kante's coming-out party with Leicester City last season earned him a spot on the PFA Team of Year. The 25-year-old Frenchman patrolled the midfield for Claudio Ranieri's title-winning Leicester with seemingly endless energy, a trait that was woefully absent from Chelsea last season. Playing in all but one league match for the Foxes last year, Kante racked up an astounding 125 tackles and 156 interceptions, per Squawka. Compare that to Chelsea's other defensive midfielders and it's clear to see why Chelsea were looking to upgrade.
Nemanja Matic made 63 tackles and 67 interceptions in 33 games, while the Blues' other main defensive mid, John Obi Mikel, collected 37 tackles and 32 interceptions in his role primarily as a backup and spot-starter in 25 games. Cesc Fabregas won 76 tackles and made 23 interceptions, although it must be mentioned that former Blues manager Jose Mourinho often played him in a more advanced role.
There are few knocks to be found in Kante's game. At roughly 5 foot 5 inches tall, he lacks the ideal size required to be an aerial asset in attack, but still manages to hold his own in the air defensively. His attacking prowess as a whole needs refining, but Kante can still make key passes to set up teammates. Chelsea didn't purchase him with the idea that he'd bring them goals, though. His tenacity and proclivity to break up the opposition's attack is what drove Chelsea to pry him away from Leicester.
Conte's introductory press conference this week had one unsurprising common theme: the word "work." Conte demands hustle and energy from his players, something the inexhaustible Kante brings to the Blues. Given the skyrocketing prices of quality players in the Premier League, snagging a sure-fire young starter at the reported £32 million is a steal. That Chelsea were able to secure him without the prospect of Champions League football next season makes the transfer that much more important for the Blues. Kante will be a key cog for Chelsea as they aim to return to the top European competition.
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