After a difficult 2019/20 season, N’Golo Kante could well be on the move this summer. The Hard Tackle assesses his possible options this summer
2019/20 has been a season of transition for Chelsea. Working under new management in addition to losing their best player and having a transfer ban imposed on them, the Blues had already been shackled to a great extent before their campaign even began. However, if there was one department that was touted to be the saving grace in a young side, it was midfield.
For much of the season, that has indeed proven to be true. Jorginho enjoyed a splendid first half of the campaign, which, in turn, helped him gain admirers at Stamford Bridge and beyond. Mateo Kovacic joined permanently and has arguably been Chelsea’s Player of the Season.
Mason Mount was a largely unknown player but has carved out a place for himself in the first-team setup, while Ross Barkley has managed to chip in with a few solid performances as well. Finally, there was N’Golo Kante, who, before this season, had arguably been Chelsea’s best player after Eden Hazard after arriving from Leicester City in the summer of 2016.
In fact, such has been Kante’s impact in the blue of Chelsea that extraordinary would be a rather understatement. In fact, even when he was converted into a box-to-box midfielder, the Frenchman did what he has always done in his career – overcoming obstacles to excel after initial hiccups, adding layers to his game.
However, what has ensued over the last 11 months has turned 2019/20 into a season of horror for Kante. While he has still been consistent more often than not, injuries have set him back a great extent, forcing him to miss as many as 17 games this term. But, could this be the final memory of Kante as a Chelsea player? After all, reports claim that Chelsea are willing to sell him this summer.
Frank Lampard has insisted that the Blues have no such plans, yet reports continue to swirl that this could be done to fund a move to Kai Havertz. Let us now look at where Kante could be plying his trade next season, as a summer transfer window of uncertainty approaches for him.
The “It’s a hoax, I’m staying” Option: Chelsea
Why Chelsea would be looking to cash in on Kante seems to be a bizarre thought right from the off. Midfield might be a strong suit, but letting go of the former PFA Player of the Year would be a suicidal decision, especially at a time when Jorginho is being heavily linked with a summer move away from Stamford Bridge.
That, since the resumption of the Premier League season, Frank Lampard has been hesitant to use him even when there is a scarcity of options, could mean everything is not right between Chelsea and their vice-captain.
If Jorginho was to leave in the summer transfer window, Chelsea would already have one vacant spot in midfield. Why would they sell Kante to fund a move for Kai Havertz to bolster one area of the pitch and leave the other bare?
After all, for all his qualities, Mateo Kovacic is not a natural in the holding midfield role. Billy Gilmour is touted for big things, but the young Scot is still very raw and has a long way to go before he can become a regular in the position. Kante, meanwhile, is just the kind of player who could help Chelsea save money and divert the funds recouped from a potential Jorginho sale towards buying the remaining targets.
Indeed, the 29-year-old has always been in his elements whenever he has played at the base of the three-man midfield, showing that despite his obvious qualities in a more advanced role, it is in a deeper slot that he could aid Chelsea’s cause better. Staying put looks a lot likelier.
The New Challenge Option: Inter Milan
If Chelsea do end up selling Kante this summer, then Inter Milan might just be an option worth considering. After all, the Antonio Conte project has kicked off reasonably well, with the Nerazzurri making some big strides towards returning to the summit of Italian football.
The signing of Achraf Hakimi is another step to enable the Serie A giants to get back to their pomp. However, midfield is one area that still needs to be addressed by the former Chelsea manager, and for good reason.
Marcelo Brozovic is one of the best in his position in Serie A at present while Nicolo Barella is a player who has already elevated Inter a great deal this term. Beyond the duo, however, there is very little quality, with Borja Valero and Matias Vecino just not good enough and Roberto Gagliardini only viable as a backup option.
Kante’s acquisition, to that end, would be another definitive step in the right direction for Inter. With the 2018 FIFA World Cup winner also being well versed with Conte’s system from their time together at Chelsea, settling in at San Siro might just be a swift process.
Reports also suggest that Kante is a priority for Inter this summer and with spots likely to open up in their midfield this summer, the 29-year-old would fit in seamlessly. If that was to happen, we could well see Kante make an immediate impact for Conte next season a-la Chelsea.
The Alluring Option: Real Madrid
No one says no to Real Madrid when they come calling. They are arguably the biggest club in the land and always seem to have a charm on every player they wish to sign and subsequently approach for a move. Over the last two years, Chelsea have lost two of their best players in the past half-a-decade to Los Blancos. Could Kante end up making it three in three?
If widespread reports are to be believed, Kante is a target for the newly-crowned La Liga champions for a move in the summer transfer window. But, how will he fit in at the Santiago Bernabeu, especially with Casemiro going great guns?
One possible way could be to deploy him in a role similar to the one he has been essaying at Chelsea over the last two years. With Luka Modric well into the twilight of his career, there is a feeling that the Croat will soon be phased out of the first-team picture. On top of that, James Rodriguez is expected to be offloaded this summer.
This potentially opens up a space in the Real Madrid midfield, and this is where Kante comes into the picture. Ideally, someone like Martin Odegaard should be entrusted with the responsibility of filling in Modric’s shoes after a fantastic season with Real Sociedad. However, it is being reported that the Norwegian wishes to extend his stay with La Real by another season.
In such a scenario, Kante would be the best possible short-term buy, seeing as he can reprise two roles as per the demands of the team. His presence in the squad could also allow Zinedine Zidane to rotate Casemiro more effectively, having used the Brazilian extensively this season. Could Kante end up reuniting with former Chelsea teammates Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois soon?