The following article is extracted from Football News’s 200,000 word guide to the world of French football, The Football News 100 which focused on ranking individuals’ performances over the course of 2014 as a calendar year. To download the whole guide, click here.
The following piece was written in December 2014 and published on the 5th January 2015. Ngolo Kanté ranked 76th in our index out of French football’s 100 best players in this year’s Football News 100 and was a new entry this year.
It is hard to believe that Kante is only in his second season as a professional footballer. Only four years ago Kanté was playing for Club Suresnes an amateur team in the suburbs of Paris. It is here where he was spotted by US Boulogne where he spent two seasons playing in the Championnat National before he signed for Caen in the summer of 2013. Since then his rise has been sensational as he took Ligue 2 by storm helping Caen to promotion and being named in the UNFP Team of the Year. This year he has continued to develop and has taken Ligue 1 in his stride. Although his team Caen is lying at the bottom of the table, Kanté has been a revelation and has easily been his team’s most consistent performer.
Kanté is an energetic box-to-box midfielder who can do almost everything. He however excels in the defensive part of the game where he has won 105 tackles this season that is 30 more than any other player in Europe’s top 5 leagues at an average of 6.2 per game, according to WhoScored. This is just a minor indication of the type of player Kanté is. Consistency is king and Kanté has had plenty to show in Ligue 1 thus far, having had arguably only one “bad game” where he was sent off for two bookable offences against Rennes at the beginning of the season.
In every other game he has arguably been Caen’s best performer. Kanté is not a particularly imposing figure as he stands at a mere 1.69 metres in height but he has a stocky physique that allows him to hold his own in a very physical French league. It is impossible not to notice him when watching Caen, when in possession he is always trying to play the ball forward looking to make things happen, while when out of possession he is hassling and hurrying the opposition.
He is particularly impressive at breaking up play as shown by his average of 6.2 tackles per game while he also averages 2.7 interceptions per game; that is the 5th highest taking into account midfielders in Ligue 1 in the first half of the 2014/15 campaign. Such is Kanté’s work rate that he has been compared to a Duracell bunny in France as his battery never seems to run out. Kanté also possesses great pace and he is often seen carrying the ball long distance although he is not a particularly impressive dribbler, his sheer power and willingness gets him past opponents. His pace and excellent engine allow him to get up and down the pitch with great ease hence the reason why he has the ability and capability to influence the game at both ends of the pitch.
One minor criticism of Kanté’s game which has been highlighted by his manager Garande is that he should get on the scoresheet more often as he has only scored five goals in 60 apperances for Caen with only two coming this season. The reason why his manager has pointed this out is that Kanté has all the tools needed to get on the score sheet on a more regular basis as he possesses the required physical capability to get up and down the pitch with ease throughout 90 minutes and if he were to improve his composure in front of goal and timing of his runs better into the box he could become even better than he already is.
Such has been Kanté’s impression in Ligue 1 that clubs are expected to be clamoring over his services during the winter transfer window and Caen will have a massive job on their hands just to keep hold of their talisman past January 2015. If Caen were to lose Kanté their chances of survival in Ligue 1 would be bleak such is his importance to their team.
He has been compared to PSG’s Matuidi in regards to playing style and they could go on to have very similar careers given that one can fully expect Kanté to push on wherever he might end up next and eventually earn himself international recognition. France would do well to tie him up as quickly as possible given that Kanté is also eligible to play for Mali as he is of Malian descent.
His future however will certainly be away from Caen; it is a question of when not if. He has arguably already outgrown the team even though he has only been with the Northern club for 18 months. Remember the name Ngolo Kanté because you will surely be hearing a lot more about this young talented box-to-box midfielder in the not too distant future.