The prospect of Manchester United bolstering their midfield options with the signing of Chelsea star N’Golo Kante is both an interesting and exciting one.
The 31-year-old, ever since arriving in England from Caen in 2015, has gone from strength to strength, establishing himself as one of the very best midfielders in the world. Charged like a Duracell Bunny, Kante is renowned for being full of energy and refusing to ever give an opponent a moment’s rest. Coming up against him must give anyone a sleepless night the night before.
As well as being equipped with bundles of energy, the Frenchman is also strong and aggressive in and out of possession; he is a monster in the center of the park and both Leicester and Chelsea have heavily benefited from his presence in recent years. After all, they have won seven trophies between them and he has been key in all of those success stories.
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But with just a little over a year remaining on his Chelsea contract, speculation about his future is beginning to mount. According to the Guardian, United are interested in his signature ahead of the summer transfer window and see him as a player that could strengthen the club’s midfield options, as Erik ten Hag looks to oversee a summer of change and transition.
At first, the prospect of adding Kante to his midfield options is an exciting one; he is an elite-level player that has displayed time and time again over the last few years that he is one of the very best in the business. But considering he is now less than 12 months away from turning 32, and his injury record of him is beginning to have an unwanted look, is now the right time for United to be turning to the Frenchman for big money?
Based on past experiences, you would argue that it isn’t. United need to invest in younger players that have the potential to have a high resale value in years to come. After all, this summer is supposed to be all about a change in approach.
Therefore, United should, although it might seem tempting because of Kante’s brilliance over the last few years, steer clear of investing a large amount of money in a player whose availability is beginning to decrease. Even Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel has admitted that the midfielder’s fitness is not as reliable as it once was.
“It’s hard to live with because it’s important for him to be there and to have the rhythm,” said Tuchel, speaking earlier this month. “He constantly starts getting rhythm and once he has rhythm he gets a little injury and he’s out again.
“This guy who gets man of the match in every Champions League game is only here for 40-something per cent of games, this is huge for us. We’ll do everything to solve it. I don’t blame him but it’s a concern.”
Based on that admission, would it be wise for United to invest X amount of money in a player whose reliability is becoming a concern? Of course not. They need to recruit wisely and sensibly this summer, meaning Tuchel’s warning should be enough to put them off, even though there is no denying that Kante is a world-class performer when at the peak of his powers.
And if that isn’t enough to sway the thinking of United’s decision-makers, Roy Keane’s past comments about Paul Pogba’s lack of consistency could be accounted for when analyzing Kante and his fitness. The former United captain, earlier this year, accused Pogba of not being consistent enough during his second Old Trafford spell.
“How many times do you have to say it about Pogba? He is an outstanding talent, no doubt about it,” Keane told ITV Sport back in February. “He’s got the CV and the trophies to back it up, but in his time at United I don’t think he’s been consistent enough.
“It is a big few months ahead for him from a selfish point of view, if he’s looking at moving, or could he possibly be staying at Man United? “We don’t know with the manager, but a talented boy but hasn’ Don’t do enough at Man United, he hasn’t been consistent enough.”
In comparison, Kante has been a far better performer in the Premier League and in Europe over the last few years – there is no argument or debate to be had about that. But Tuchel’s comments about his fitness levels and reliability of him becoming concerning suggest that United could experience similar problems to what Pogba has presented them with, in the sense that consistency has been hard to come by.
Although the warnings from Tuchel and Keane focus on completely different matters, it could be wise for United to listen carefully. They need consistency and fluency next season from the off, and that is something Kante might not be able to offer.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.