At Euro 2016, N’Golo KantÃ© was an unused substitute in the final as France lost in extra time to Portugal. It came mere months after KantÃ© had been a figurehead of footballâ€™s most unlikely underdog story;Â Leicester City winning the Premier League despite being considered favourites for relegation. Didier Deschamps learned his lesson â€“ KantÃ© played every game of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, in which no side lay a glove on Les BleusÂ on their way to a dominant 4-2 final win over Croatia.
In this summerâ€™s European Championships, KantÃ© is no longer an under-the-radar trendy pick for football hipsters but a superstar name. Quiet by nature and playing an unsung position in defensive midfield, KantÃ© has never embraced the spotlight. But as France look to undo the mistake of letting slip a major title on home soil, pre-tournament Euro betting odds put KantÃ© among the favourites to win Player of the Tournament at 14/1. Although still unaccustomed to rubbing shoulders with Europeâ€™s biggest names like Cristiano Ronaldo and Kevin de Bruyne, should KantÃ© leads France to another major tournament win, heâ€™ll be seeing them again at the Ballon dâ€™Or ceremony this December.
France president Emmanuel Macron backs N’Golo Kante for the Ballon d’Or ðŸ†ðŸ‡«ðŸ‡· pic.twitter.com/Lx4gSYJR4Z
â€” ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 10, 2021
KantÃ© is only one massive name in a French squad full of talent. Perhaps chief among his rivals for footballâ€™s biggest individual award is Kylian MbappÃ© â€“ the worldâ€™s second-most expensive player won the Ligue 1 Golden Boot for a third year running and terrorised opposing defences in the process. In MbappÃ©, surely a factor in Ballon dâ€™Or debates for the next decade at least, France have one of the most exciting young players in football. With KantÃ© and Paul Pogba holding down the midfield, it gives the likes of MbappÃ© and Antoine Griezmann the freedom to burst forward and get behind the defensive line. Superb as he is individually, KantÃ© will never want for quality around him.
Honours for Club and Country
Indeed, for a player who embarked on that incredible journey with Leicester City, 2020/21 may have been KantÃ©â€™s best club campaign yet. Winner of the UEFA Champions League with Chelsea, KantÃ© was seen by many pundits as the driving force of Thomas Tuchelâ€™s European champions. KantÃ© almost single-handedly declawed Real Madrid over the two-legged semi-final with his tireless running, relentless pressure and ball-hawking interceptions. Opposing sides hate to face KantÃ© â€“ although diminutive in size, at times it feels like KantÃ© does the workload of two players at once.
Next season, KantÃ© will be at the heart of a Chelsea side expected to challenge for the Premier League title after just barely making the top four this campaign. Tuchelâ€™s side, known in the later stages of the season as a defensive unit nearly impossible to break down, seemingly has all the tools to challenge the incumbent Manchester City. But if they are to dethrone Pep Guardiolaâ€™s giants, who outscored every Premier League team last season, they will need better consistency over the course of the year.
One thing is for sure â€“ no one at Chelsea need worry about the play of Nâ€™Golo KantÃ©.