Kante's Remarkable Footballing Journey
- The midfielder says he only started to believe that he could make it as a professional a few years ago
- Kante reveals that he had a number of unsuccessful trials as a young player
- His playing style and ability to intercept the ball was picked up playing in the street with his friends
However it was only a few seasons ago that the man himself actually started to believe that he could make it as a professional in the game.
Signed from French outfit Caen in the summer, the Foxes midfielder has been one of the signings of the season, indeed of any season. He leads the league in both tackles and interceptions and plays with an enjoyment that is mirrored throughout the squad.
But just a few years ago, having been turned down by a host of teams in France, Kanté was fighting to make his mark in Boulogne’s reserve side down in the French sixth tier – a remarkable thought for a player of such undeniable talent.
After breaking into the Boulogne first team, Caen eventually moved for Kanté’s services. The midfielder helped the team to promotion to the French top tier in 2013/14 and after just one season in Ligue 1, the Foxes made their move.
Now Kanté and Leicester sit two points clear at the top of the table heading into February’s final fixture – a long way from where he started out.
Kanté explained to : “I played for my local amateur club at Suresnes from the age of 10 to 19 years old. That’s when I went off to Boulogne at the age of 19.
“They were in the sixth tier and it was their reserve team that I played for. With the reserve team we got promoted to the fifth tier so then I at that time I moved up to the first team who were at that time playing in the third tier.
“It was when I left my own environment in Suresnes and played for Boulogne that I finally started to have a desire and a belief that I could make it as a professional footballer.”
His success with Leicester now makes it all the more remarkable that a bigger team in France didn’t pick him up at a younger age. Boulogne are currently in the third tier while Caen finished last season in the bottom half of Ligue 1.
And while a move to one of France’s traditionally bigger teams never materialised, Kanté revealed that it wasn’t for lack of trying to get noticed.
He added: “It was weird. I went to plenty of trials, you know. There were plenty of opportunities at the trials but whether I was too young, hadn’t developed enough or just wasn’t ready, I don’t know. None of them worked out.
“I went to lots of places. I went to Clairefontaine, the French FA training centre. I went to Rennes, Sochaux, Lorient and others. There were a lot of teams and they were spread out geographically too.”
Kanté admits that his playing style was certainly influenced by things other than academy football and that the all-action, combative style we see at King Power Stadium was picked up playing in the streets with his friends at a young age.
“I think even before I joined my local club I discovered that I had that ability when I was playing in the street with my friends and then more formally in training and games when I joined a club,” Kanté reflected.
“I think I’ve always had that ability to intercept and win the ball back. Also to hold onto the ball, retain it and dribble with it, all from playing with my mates.”
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