In football circles, “bargain” usually refers to a player who has come on a free transfer, or in today’s super inflated times, someone who cost less than £15m.
It is a bit of an anomaly that N’Golo Kante, who cost Chelsea just around £32m has been the biggest bargain of the season. This was proved as early as Kante’s second month with his new club, but this is a fact that keeps getting reiterated with every Chelsea match.
In a match where Manchester United were fielding the most expensive footballer in history, Paul Pogba who cost £89m, this fact was slammed home in an even stronger fashion.
Kante beautifully orchestrated Chelsea’s FA Cup quarterfinal victory against Manchester United, and also managed to score the only goal of the match. It must be noted that he is not a goalscoring or attacking midfielder, he doesn’t shoot too often, but he managed to get his team an important win. Meanwhile, Paul Pogba’s role involves him dictating the attack which coupled with his ability to score some beautiful goals, and change the outcome of the game, makes him a massive threat and gives him the responsibility that comes with being the most expensive player ever.
Just like he has been showing every week since his move to Stamford Bridge, on Monday night, Kante once again delivered. Former Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard went on to call him the best midfielder in the world:
“I would go so far as to say N’Golo Kante is the best central midfield player in the world right now. I compared him to Claude Makelele last season, but he’s got even more to his game than Makelele.”
Kante has so much in his locker, as demonstrated last season at Leicester. He doesn’t partake in scoring goals, but on Monday night, his 20-yard strike showed he may still have more to offer.
A player’s worth is certainly not determined by the goals he scores especially if he’s not a striker, but for the money United paid for him, Paul Pogba has got to do more on the pitch. He needs to dominate proceedings, keep the heart of the field ticking, and find killer passes for players that are not Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Frenchman did start the game well but lost his grip on the match after Ander Herrera was dismissed. Like any other player, Pogba also requires some quality alongside him to shoulder the responsibility. At Juventus, he had the presence of Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal to keep him company. United’s midfield, by contrast, is a much weaker one and José Mourinho may still have not found the perfect combination.
Regardless, his team requires more from him than Pogba is supplying. Time and again in the past, the Frenchman has shown that he has the ability and he is blessed with the physique to really wreak havoc on the field. It was strange to see him squander possession easily and get bullied by smaller players around him. What magnified his ineffective performance was the show Kante put on, good enough to help his team progress to the semi-final of the FA Cup, and once again make the headlines.