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THREE LUNGS

There’s a good chance N’Golo Kante is actually the best player in the world

In terms of sheer effectiveness, the Frenchman is unmatched

Three years ago, hardly anybody outside of northern France had heard of N’Golo Kante.

He was a relatively unknown 24-year-old midfielder for Caen, who was only truly appreciated by the club’s fans and diligent students of Ligue 1.

When Leicester signed him in 2015 for £5.6million, the vast majority of Foxes supporters consulted Wikipedia for extra information, and were duly disappointed.

Now any football fan worth their salt knows his name.

Who are ya? Who are ya?

Getty - Contributor
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Who are ya? Who are ya?

His rocket-like rise from obscurity to undisputed top-level performer is like nothing we’ve seen in recent times.

He was omnipresent in Leicester’s odds-defying title win.

But still there was a sense he was underappreciated.

Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez scooped the individual awards in 2015/16.

All except Leicester’s Players’ Player of the Year award — Kante’s team-mates recognised their tireless midfielder’s true worth.

LOCATION: Everywhere

PA:Press Association
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LOCATION: Everywhere

Then he fixed all of Chelsea’s problems to win back-to-back titles with different clubs.

After falling at the last hurdle on home soil at Euro 2016, he is now one game away from snatching a major international crown.

The common denominator in three very different, successful teams, is Kante.

Different club, same result

Getty Images - Getty
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Different club, same result

In this day and age, players don’t make it to 24-years-old without being dubbed ‘next big thing’ if they possess world-class potential.

And there was a danger of him slipping through the net.

As a youth he played as a left-winger and it wasn’t until the Boulogne coaches noticed how many balls he recovered per game that he was placed in front of the back four.

He hasn’t looked back since and continues to develop and hone his skills.

Lucky No13

Getty - Contributor
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Lucky No13

His contribution to France’s World Cup campaign can not be underestimated.

A supreme tackler with a superhuman work rate, he has improved with the ball at his feet dramatically since moving to Chelsea.

More abstractly, he levels the balance of any side.

Paul Pogba deserves credit for his form in Russia but most agree the Man United midfielder has been aided by Kante’s sheer effectiveness.

Steve Walsh, Leicester’s former head of recruitment, used to say: “In midfield we play three. [Danny] Drinkwater and Kante either side of him.”

Kante’s twin just out of shot

AP:Associated Press
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Kante’s twin just out of shot

There are few players talented playmakers fear more.

Kante is relentless in his pursuit to extinguish any ember of creativity in the opposition.

The question must be asked — is he the best player in the world?

It’s a query that is impossible to answer.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Neymar and the other most-nominated candidates all have impressive goal records to support their claim.

Kante plays in an entirely different position, fulfilling a contrasting role for his team.

An inspiration

Reuters
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An inspiration

Comparing him to the Ballon d’Or favourites is a thankless task as he excels in different aspects of the game.

He won’t raise the hair on the back of your neck like Ronaldo, or have you shaking your head in disbelief like Messi.

Still, if you believe the best player in the world is the one who has the most positive influence on his team then Kante must surely be considered in the top bracket.

A humble, unassuming character, he’s not one to boast or campaign.

But there’s a good chance he’s the best of the lot.