‘I’d never heard of Kante when Leicester signed him!’

first_imgMark Schwarzer had never heard of N’Golo Kante when he arrived at Leicester City but soon grew to realise that he was a superstar in the making.Leicester would go on to win their first Premier League title in 2016 with Kante in their midfield, with the Frenchman going on to be a key player for his national team and also sealing a switch to Chelsea.Having won the Premier League twice, the FA Cup, the Europa League and the World Cup, it is easy to forget that just five years ago Kante was playing in the second division in France. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Ox-rated! Dream night in Genk for Liverpool ace after injury nightmare Messi a man for all Champions League seasons – but will this really be Barcelona’s? Schwarzer, who deputised for Kasper Schmeichel at Leicester, lined up alongside the 28-year-old in cup competitions and soon realised that he had the potential to be a top-class player.”I had never heard of him when we signed him,” Schwarzer told Goal. “We watched him training and thought ‘wow, he has something.’ Then that progressed and progressed. He is pretty shy. On a football pitch he comes out of himself a bit more but he is still a very shy individual.”That had a lot to do with the language barrier. Since learning English, he has come out of himself a little bit more but he is very much firmly with his feet on the ground. What you see on the football pitch on a matchday is the same as on the training field.”He doesn’t turn it on and off. He is pretty much that every day on a football pitch. After he played a few League Cup games, you thought ‘he needs to go straight into the team, he is what we need’.”The minute he played, you knew. ‘Wow, he is incredible’. Then you think ‘how long can he keep it up?’ And he kept going on and on. His work rate is unbelievable and he does it effortlessly. When you look at his face, he doesn’t look tired. He always has a smile on his face and it is a genuine one. I can’t speak highly enough about him.”Kante’s start to the season has been plagued by injury after he played through a knee injury in the 4-1 Europa League final win over Arsenal, only to then be sidelined for several months as he recovered.N'Golo Kante Leicester CityHis return to the Chelsea first-team has seen him suffer an ankle injury and, with Frank Lampard requesting he is left out of the France squad over the international break, Schwarzer thinks that burnout will be the Frenchman’s biggest obstacle this season.”For N’Golo this season, I think the biggest issue has been the sheer number of games he has played over the last couple of years,” he added. “He has had slight niggles and always played on. He is a phenomenal athlete. A very humble guy and a great footballer.”His rise is well-documented and it has been phenomenal. I was very fortunate to have spent a season with him. I played a couple of games in the League Cup with him. From the minute he played, you could tell he had something special.”In terms of his strengths, I think they were underutilised under [Maurizio] Sarri last season. The expectation of getting forward, he has the ability to do it as he showed, but his real strength is breaking up the play and gaining it back.”He gives cover for the backline. If they have a fit N’Golo Kante, he should sit next to Jorginho or Kovacic. Kante gives that important balance that they don’t have when he isn’t there.”Schwarzer also commented on Petr Cech’s decision to return to Chelsea in a role as technical and performance advisor, insisting that he always knew the former Arsenal goalkeeper wouldn’t settle for a role as a coach or pundit.”I used to chat with him a lot. You could tell he wasn’t just going to be a goalkeeping coach or sit in front of the camera and do the media side of things. He had grander ideas for his future,” Schwarzer continued. “It is a perfect position for him. He takes an interest in football as a whole.”He tries to make every aspect of his game better. That will transfer into his role as he looks to get small percentages out of people. I think he has some good ideas and he is very open-minded when it comes to learning new things as well.”Mark Schwarzer provides expert comment for Optus Sport which is the exclusive Australian broadcaster of the Premier League, UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League.last_img