Over the last decade, there has invariably been a running theme in the Ballon d’Or. Apart from in 2010, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have quite rightly occupied the two top spots. Is it time they moved aside and gave someone else a look in?
Luka Modric claiming FIFA’s ‘Best Men’s Player’ award for 2018 may indicate a shifting attitude amongst the global football community. Firstly, it suggests that Messi and Ronaldo’s tyranny is fading, which is inevitable as their powers dwindle with age.
So, if a defensive midfield player, for the first since Matthias Sammer in 1996, was to achieve Ballon d’Or glory, then there would only be one candidate: step forth N’Golo Kante.
Why Not Kante?
N’Golo Kante is the poster-boy for commitment, work ethic and, arguably a trait which can easily be overlooked, consistency. Despite not possessing the most mesmerising skill moves, for instance, he has become indispensable to Chelsea’s success.
Indeed it would be hard-pressed to find someone so integral and central to a team’s success. Quite simply without Kante, there is no glue to hold the team together. Leicester’s collapse after his move to Chelsea gives sufficient evidence of how crucial his presence was.
The consistency that he exhibits is nothing short of astounding, inhuman even. For the role that he plays, he always plays it immaculately. Arguably there is no player in world football as reliable as he is, as tireless in their work ethic and as much of a thorn in the side of his opponents’.
So again: Why not Kante?
Who Is He Up Against?
Though it is easy to talk about N’Golo Kante in superlative terms, he has some stiff competition. The 30-man shortlist includes names such as Mohamed Salah, Antoine Griezmann, and Luka Modric – not forgetting the two obvious candidates – who all enjoyed a highly successful 2018.
That said, he should not, therefore, be overlooked or reduced merely to a dark horse. Unfortunately for him, attacking-minded players have historically been favoured, which belittles the importance of players that make attacking play so possible.
Although, weighing him up against the individual achievements of Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League, or Mohammed Salah’s record-breaking season, does highlight the elite competition he faces. Even so, this shouldn’t undermine Kante’s claim to the Ballon d’Or or distract from his individual excellence.
A Worthy Winner
Winning the World Cup and helping Chelsea achieve FA Cup glory, in what was an otherwise miserable season, indicates an excellent year for N’Golo Kante. However, his side’s shortcomings in the Premier League may be detrimental to his chances.
Nonetheless, it is widely recognised that Chelsea’s poor season isn’t a reflection on N’Golo Kante’s ability. At the World Cup he had nothing to prove, but he silenced any creeping doubts that may have arrived following Chelsea’s domestic turbulence.
All too easily Kante is viewed in relation to his existence within the team and not as an individual within his own right. He is the complete midfielder – and there is truly no one else quite like him in world football. Aside from his outstanding athleticism, his unrivaled ability to intercept the ball and read the game, arguably what defines him is his individuality.
Ultimately it is no coincidence that he wins trophies where ever he goes. Diminutive in nature and colossal in influence, N’golo Kante is a player well worthy of Balon d’Or contention. Can he win it? We shall see on December 3rd.
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