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Player Profile - N'Golo Kante

Leicester’s Destroyer In Midfield

Personal information
Full name: N'Golo Kante 
Date of birth: 29 March 1991 
Age: 25
Place of birth: Paris, France
Height: 1.69 m (5 ft 6 1⁄2 in) 
Playing position: Midfielder 

Club information
Current team: Leicester City
Number: 14

Youth career
2001–2010: JS Suresnes
2010–2011: Boulogne

Senior career
2011–2013: Boulogne 40 Appearances, 4 goals
2013–2015: Caen 82 Appearances, 6 goals
2015– Leicester City 37 Appearances, 1 goal   

National career
2016– France 2 Appearances, 1 goal 

The miracle of Leicester City's rise to likely Premier League champions this season has been nothing short of jaw-droppingly remarkable. And while their success has been headlined by the likes of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, the impressive influence of N'Golo Kante has been invaluable to the Foxes this season. The 24-year-old Frenchman, who has been integral in Leicester's unexpected title bid, and it’s not difficult as to why. 

Unfancied but unperturbed, Kante is a player that the wealthy clubs, with vast recruitment resources, failed to see. It has become almost cliche now to point out the individual obstacles that Leicester players have overcome, yet just five years ago, Kante was playing for Suresnes, a club from the Parisian banileus, in the 8th tier of French football. After his time at Suresnes, Kante went to Boulogne, in the north of France to play first with their reserves in France's fifth division, then with their first team in National, France's third tier before finally moving to Caen, in Ligue 2 and later in Ligue 1. Claudio Ranieri, as the now established anecdote goes, wasn’t really keen on N’Golo Kante. The midfielder was thought of as too light and too small, at just 5 ft 5, for the robust physicality of the Premier League. Leicester already had Gokhan Inler, a vastly experienced deep-lying player, in the squad, as well as the British trio of Danny Drinkwater, Andy King and Matty James. They were well stocked with players capable of getting through a battle against relegation. But Ranieri, consulting video reports and statistics, gambled, eventually recruiting the player whose midfield drive has been crucial to Leicester’s extended gallivant at the top of the table. 

Kante, like Leicester, has defied all expectations this season, but the midfielder’s personal tale demonstrates the precociousness of development in football. In a statement released on Leicester’s website when Kante signed from Caen, the club suggested that they had beaten off competition to his signature, masking the doubts that persisted about the signing. Those doubts remained even as the season began. Kante was not selected for Leicester’s first three matches of the campaign, making his competitive debut in the League Cup against Bury, as a left winger. It took until the 26th of September and a barnstorming 5-2 defeat to Arsenal for Kante to be included alongside Drinkwater in the centre of midfield, as part of Leicester’s now customary 4-4-2. From there, Kante has asserted himself as perhaps the leading holding central midfielder in the league this season, with his outstanding energy and drive. Kante's uncompromising enforcement of the midfield will be crucial when the Foxes, who lead the table Kante was purchased from French club Caen last summer for a £5.6m fee that is already looking like one of the signings of the season. Leicester's midfield dynamo was the first Premier League player to win 100 tackles this season. In addition to his tackling prowess, Kante has also been one of the best at intercepting those crucial passes - he cuts out a pass on average 4.7 times during each match - higher than any other player.

The individual story of Kante has provoked debate about the nature of football development. Kante rose through the tooth and nail battles of amateur football, outside of the elite schooling of major academies, but with the continued experienced of competitive football. Hunger is a terrifically apt word when evaluating Kante’s revelatory performances this season, with constant movement, hard pressing and technical quality seeing the midfielder rise to the top of almost every statistical chart complied on defensive midfielders in Europe. Kante is the hardworking midfielder who never stops running, a machine of a player despite his small size. There seems to be very little that Kante can't do; his step up to international football was marked with a goal during his second cap for France against Russia. Now his country have fallen in love with him too. There is nothing that scares him. If the next five years continue in the same vein as the last five have, Kante’s value as a player can only increase.