OPINION: Is Chelsea's N'Golo Kante the best player in the Premier League?
When the question of who takes the title as the best player in the Premier League is discussed, the huge majority of people acknowledge the league's most technically gifted with the likes of Sergio Aguero, Alexis Sanchez and Eden Hazard all being regarded as the best.
However, this is something which should be overlooked, otherwise the argument would then be ‘Who is the most technically gifted player in the Premier League?’
Players who have the biggest influence in their position, regardless of where that is, whether it’s left back or goalkeeper all have the right to enter the debate.
Why can’t David De Gea or Toby Alderweireld be seen as the best player in the Premier League? Although they do not score the goals which ultimately make the difference come the end of the season, their contributions are just as important.
A player who falls into this category of highly influential players is Chelsea midfielder N’golo Kante.
Despite the Frenchman still being held in such high acclaim by many football fans across the nation, the midfielder is never given a sniff when the question is disputed.
Since the 25 year old arrived in England from French side Caens, the midfielder has been nothing short of sensational; displaying tenacious tackling, great reading of the game, similar to that of former Chelsea great Claude Makelele and unbelievable stamina, that of which the league has never beheld.
His move from Leicester City initially raised eyebrows, with the Foxes shocking the football world by being crowned champions whilst title predecessors Chelsea finished a hugely disappointing 10th, not being able to offer Kante the Champions League football that his remarkable performances deserved.
However, it has proven to of been an inspired choice with Chelsea now five points clear at the top whilst Leicester currently linger in 15th, contrasting massively from last season.
The contrast in league positions shows just how vital the high energy midfielder has been to both side’s performances. Without the energetic, defensively disciplined performances of the France International, in which he both got up and down the pitch, Leicester’s devastating attack and rock solid defence of last season now look far less potent.
Leicester’s fortunes this season point to Kante now being the decisive factor in Leicester’s title success, regardless of the form of the likes of Jamie Vardy, Wes Morgan and PFA Player of The Year Riyad Mahrez.
Despite Kante not possessing the individual brilliance that Aguero and Sanchez show consistently, the former Leicester City midfielders influence on games certainly equals that of the leagues most gifted, possibly even bettering it.
It speaks volumes that the Frenchman currently possesses the greatest win rate of any current player in the league, holding a record of just under 70%, considerably higher than the second highest Nacho Monreal, who’s win rate is just under 65 per cent.
Leicester reacted to Kante’s departure by signing highly rated defensive midfielder Nampyls Mendy from Nice, hoping for the 24 year to have a similar impact to Kante.
However, Mendy has struggled to even make the first team place this season, whilst many other central midfielders have tried and failed to fill the huge hole left by Kante alongside Danny Drinkwater in the heart of midfield. It’s fair to say that Leicester City have hugely missed Kante this season.
Kante’s spectacular performances during his first season in England also came under the attention of his home nation of France, with the midfielder being rewarded for his splendid form with a his first cap in March of last year.
France Manager Didier Deschamps continued to recognise the 25 year old’s quality and named him in the squad for Euro 2016, where he played a role in their journey to the final.
He has now fully established himself as a first team midfield player, capping off a remarkable journey in the space of just two years, when he first played in the second division of French football.
Because of the exceptional role in which he has played over his year and a half spell in English football, Kante is certainly more than worthy of being regarded amongst the best players in the league, if not, possibly even the best.
It is no coincidence that Leicester have gone from title winners to relegation candidates since his departure whilst Chelsea have gone from mid-table to title favourites since his arrival.
Very little players could transform a relegation destined team into title winners. It’s hard to imagine any player in the league, even Aguero or Sanchez, being placed in the Leicester team from the start of last season, without Kante, and making them title winners. It just goes to show how special he really is.