Champions League man of the match N’Golo Kante covers so much ground he is like “two players”, according to former Chelsea midfielder and assistant head coach Eddie Newton.
Kante was in imperious form on Saturday as Chelsea edged past Manchester City 1-0 to secure their first Champions League triumph since 2012, Kai Havertz scoring the decisive goal shortly before half-time.
The France international won 11 of 15 duels, recovered the ball 10 times for his team, and the shortest man on the pitch won four out of seven aerial duels – nobody on his team tallied more.
Former Chelsea playmaker Joe Cole hailed Kante’s display, telling BT Sport: “I don’t think there’s a more important player for his team in world football than Kante.”
And Newton, who played for Chelsea between 1990 and 1999 and had spells as assistant head coach in 2012 and 2015-16, was in agreement, describing Kante as the Blues’ “engine”.
“He’s an integral part of any team,” Newton exclusively told Stats Perform. “He is the engine. He doesn’t care about the razzmatazz, he’s a very humble human being.
N’Golo Kante, that’s the tweet. pic.twitter.com/x7S23QFzm7
— Champions of Europe (@ChelseaFC) May 30, 2021
“He raises his game every single time. He trains the way he plays. His levels are always the same.
“His mindset is very strong. Physically he’s a joke and able to cover so much ground; he’s like two players.
“He inspires players around him. It motivates you to do more. If you’re going to war together, you’re going to raise your game, that natural human spirit will rise to the occasion.
“That’s what he does; motivates and inspires others to raise their game.”
Newton was also fulsome in his praise of Mason Mount and Reece James, who are both expected to be named in Gareth Southgate’s final England squad for Euro 2020.
Mount laid on Havertz’s goal with one of three key passes – the most of any player on the pitch – while he finished with a joint game-high pass completion rate of 96 per cent.
James, meanwhile, superbly shackled City forward Raheem Sterling, making more tackles (seven) and clearances (five) than any player on the pitch.
Right-back James is a year younger than 22-year-old Mount and Newton believes the pair can be integral figures for Chelsea over the next decade.
“Everyone at Chelsea is proud of what Mason’s done,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how many people are around you, this young man’s mental attributes set him apart.
“Reece was outstanding and was very close to being man of the match. He took Sterling out of the game, nullified him, forcing Sterling to defend. Maybe he won’t get the plaudits, but he was outstanding.
“He’s done himself so many favours with his performances and his attitude. His work rate, concentration and adaptability is very strong.
“Another one for the future. You’re looking at so many players. It’s a fantastic squad that is quite young.
“This is the beginning of a cycle. It could be the next 10 years for Chelsea. For the rest of the league, they’ll be looking at Chelsea and it’s ominous for them.”
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