When the summer transfer window finally happens, Chelsea will be one of the teams tipped to be busy in bringing in players to help strengthen Frank Lampard’s set-up. However, with all the incomings, there is no doubt there will be a lot of outgoings. Players who aren’t in the manager’s plans will be up for grabs. But, one player who has been a revelation since he signed for the club might see himself out the door also. N’Golo Kante, arguably Chelsea’s best player on his day has been unable to match his lofty standard over the past two seasons.
Shortly after he was named the PFA Players’ Player of the Year for the 2016/17 season, N’Golo Kante lifted the Premier League with Chelsea, becoming the first player to win consecutive titles with two different clubs since Eric Cantona.
Signing for £32m from Leicester City following their remarkable campaign winning the Premier League under Claudio Ranieri, the Frenchman was considered a bargain in retrospect. The 29-year-old’s rapid rise to the top has been one of football’s better stories in the past decade, winning two Premier League trophies and a FIFA World Cup to his name already, despite playing in France’s second division until 2014. Seen similar to former Chelsea great Claude Makelele’s playing style has earned extensive praise from fans and football experts.
The Frenchmen has been among players who are strictly not for sale, known as the ‘untouchables’ for the past few years. However, it seems many factors have thrown his position at the club in doubt. The question is, should Chelsea do the unimaginable and cash in on their best player in the summer? Here are a few reasons as to why the club may consider his sale.
Not ideal for Lampard’s system
When you look at Kante’s style of play, what is his best position? I believe he is suited to a two-man system in the centre of midfield. In Leicester City’s title-winning season, he played alongside Danny Drinkwater and did the same alongside Nemanja Matic in his first season at Chelsea. Both seasons he was outstanding and won back to back Premier Leagues. He is very good at playing in a three-man midfield too, operating slightly ahead of a deep-lying playmaker, Jorginho.
In periods of this season Kante has been brilliant, but, Chelsea have looked more fluid with the Frenchman, not in the team. When Matteo Kovacic has partnered Jorginho, the fluidity in the midfield is all to see as Kovacic is far better with the ball than Kante. Then again, Kante remains best-suited with a partner in midfield, but, Lampard has shown he prefers using a three-man midfield because it utilises all his attacking options. The likes of Willian, Mount, Pulisic and the returning Loftus-Cheek all offer far more than Kante in the attacking phase. For that reason alone, Kante might be moved on because of manager systems.
Injuries affecting playing time
Injuries are a part of football and for Kante, they have come a lot more this season than before. The France international spent multiple sessions on the side-lines treating his injuries until the league’s suspension. As a result, Kante has only appeared 22 times this season and was on track to record his worst-ever total since 2012.
Kante’s injury troubles could be attributed to the fact that he has played more than 50 games in all of his last four campaign. The 2018/19 UEFA Europa League final remains a prime example of an occurring theme for the Frenchmen as Maurizio Sarri deployed the midfielder for the entirety of the match, despite him carrying an injury from the beginning.
Now 29, doubts regarding Kante’s mobility and endurance – two of his highest qualities he offers. You can say that Kante hasn’t stopped running for the past four years since he has been at Chelsea. Ultimately, he has now run himself into the ground. Hopefully, he can recapture his best form that made everyone respect how good a footballer he is, but, it remains uncertain if he can do so following an injury-hit season.
Now might be the best time to cash in
Kante signing for £32m in 2016 was one of the best signings Chelsea have made in recent seasons. But, the club is entering a new era and the best time is now for the club to sell their star man. The Stamford Bridge outfit should follow the lead of other major clubs in making a huge profit of a key player. The likes of Bayern Munich, Juventus and Liverpool are examples of this, with all three teams exploiting the transfer market to good effect. A fully fit Kante is worth near about £100m as he is regarded as one of the best players in his position – a value that is expected to drop rapidly with age and recurring injuries. The best time to sell the World Cup winner is now, while his stock is still high as he is starting to show signs of fatigue in recent seasons.
Who could replace him?
The Blues will find it hard to directly replace their star man, but they could bring in someone who is a better fit for Lampard’s system. Youth has been experimented on this season and has prevailed with many academy players being given a chance under the Chelsea boss. The likes of Conor Gallagher, Ethan Ampadu, and most recent Chelsea first-team player Billy Gilmour could be utilised in the coming seasons if the Frenchman departed the club.
In the past, Chelsea have spent massively to secure their targets in transfer windows. Once again, this might be the case to find a replacement in the transfer market and bring in already-established stars. Sergei Milinkovic-Savic and Boubakary Soumare are two headline midfielders who have been linked the Blues in recent times. One of these would be a great signing as they both have had brilliant seasons for their clubs, Lazio and Lille.
The signs are there that this could be the end of the road for Kante at Stamford Bridge. A huge loss if he were to depart the club, however, should Chelsea play their cards right, the sale of Kante could prove to be a strong statement in the club’s new era.