Antonio Conte has never doubted N’Golo Kante’s quality, but admits he had never heard of him prior to his move to Leicester City.
The 25-year-old joined Leicester from Caen in a £5.6million move in August 2015 and then played a huge role in the Foxes’ staggering Premier League title success.
Kante’s form earned him international recognition for France, with whom he played at Euro 2016 prior to sealing a £32m move to Chelsea in July, with Conte feeling he is “a complete midfielder”.
While Conte did not know who Kante was just over a year ago, the former Italy boss is delighted to be able to call upon him now.
Asked whether he was aware of Kante prior to his Leicester arrival, Conte said: “No. Before [Leicester], no – I must be honest. But I do now.
“I remember before the game against Leicester that many people thought that N’Golo is another player compared to last year, when he played with Leicester.
“Instead I said N’Golo is playing very well with us and we are very pleased to have this player with us. For sure he is a very good player.
“I think he is a complete midfielder, not only a defensive midfielder.
“You can see in the last three league games that N’Golo could have scored three goals. Against Hull after Diego Costa had hit the post, against Leicester when there was a deflection, and then he scored against Manchester United.
“He is a player that always arrives in the box, it’s fantastic. He has fantastic stamina – also good technique, good positioning, a good personality.
“He can play box-to-box, but I prefer to respect the position. I like when N’Golo goes to press, and with this [3-4-3] system I ask [the players] a lot to press, to go forward. I think N’Golo is very good at this.”