Chelsea duo N’Golo Kante and Jorginho have been shortlisted for the UEFA men’s player of the year prize for the 2020/21 season alongside Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne, European football’s governing body announced on Thursday.
The winner will be revealed at a ceremony in Istanbul next Thursday, August 26, when the draw for this season’s Champions League will also take place.
Midfield duo Jorginho and Kante both starred as Chelsea beat De Bruyne’s City 1-0 in the Champions League final in Porto in May. Jorginho then helped Italy win Euro 2020.
The shortlist was selected by a jury composed of the coaches of the 24 national teams who took part in Euro 2020, 80 coaches of the clubs which played in the group stages of last season’s Champions League and Europa League, as well as one journalist from each of UEFA’s 55 member associations.
Chelsea’s Thomas Tuchel was shortlisted for the coach prize along with Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola and Roberto Mancini, who led Italy to European Championship glory.
The three players on the shortlist for the women’s prize are Jennifer Hermoso, Lieke Martens and Alexia Putellas, all of whom won the Champions League with Barcelona.
Lluis Cortes of the Catalan club was listed for the women’s coach award along with Peter Gerhardsson, who won the Olympic silver medal with Sweden, and Emma Hayes of Chelsea, English Women’s Super League champions and Champions League runners-up.
The women’s awards were voted for by the coaches of clubs who reached the last 16 of the women’s Champions League and coaches of the top 12 women’s national teams, along with a panel of journalists.
He may shy away from the limelight, but there were few more popular members of France’s 2018 World Cup-winning side than N’Golo Kante, who on Saturday will aim to get his hands on one of the few trophies that has so far evaded him when Chelsea face Manchester City in the Champions League final.
France supporters came up with a song for Kante during that triumphant summer in Russia, to the tune of the 1969 hit “Les Champs-Elysees” by Joe Dassin. As the song goes, “he is small, he is kind, he stopped Leo Messi”.
It does take a ruthless streak to get to the very top in football as Kante has, winning two Premier League titles, the Europa League and the FA Cup as well as the World Cup.
Despite that, everyone who has encountered Kante since the start of his career in the Paris suburbs seems to agree there is no other player quite like the 30-year-old.
“Every time he comes back to Paris he comes to see us,” Karim El-Moudkhil, Kante’s former coach, tells AFP.
“But he doesn’t just stop by, he stays to eat with us, he agrees to have his photo taken with everyone, to play with the kids.”
Kante, whose parents are of Malian origin, grew up in a large family on a quiet estate in Rueil-Malmaison, to the west of the French capital.
El-Moudkhil has endless anecdotes to tell as well as recent videos of Kante playing football with children in the neigbourhood who, not surprisingly, idolise him.
“In the summer, everyone comes out to play wearing the shirts of the teams he has played for: Caen, Leicester, Chelsea, France,” says the coach.
Kante is widely liked and respected for his warmth and modesty, and as a player he has forged a reputation for being generous and discrete, with his on-pitch persona matching his personality off it.
“He has never become big-headed, he has never changed,” says El-Moudkhil. “His brothers are the same. I would like to know how they have done it.”
When you ask his former coach if he can recall Kante getting angry during a game or showing any negative emotions, the question is met with an almost sorry response.
“I am trying to think of something but I honestly can’t remember any. I have never seen him get angry as long as I have known him.
“And yet if anyone could have got angry it was him given the amount of times he used to get kicked while playing at Suresnes.”
It was there, in a pleasant suburb by the Seine River, that Kante played as a youngster.
Unlike most modern-day superstars, Kante was never picked up by the youth academy of a professional club. He had talent, but his size and personality seemed to work against him.
“N’Golo is not somebody who tends to stand out, so at a trial he just wasn’t visible,” Pierre Ville, a director at Suresnes, told AFP in 2018.
His career did gradually take off as he moved to France’s far north to sign for Boulogne-sur-Mer aged 19.
Soon he was playing for their first team in the third division, and he then joined Caen in 2013, helping them win promotion to Ligue 1.
After just one season in the French elite, Kante moved to Leicester aged 24 in 2015 and was one of the stars of their surge to the Premier League title in 2015/16.
He then left for Chelsea where he has continued to star, right up to being the man of the match in both legs of the Champions League semi-final win over Real Madrid.
“As soon as he signed for Boulogne-sur-Mer I knew his career was taking off,” says El-Moudkhil.
There, on France’s Channel coast, Kante left behind nothing but good memories.
“What was really striking was his desire to keep progressing. He was like a sponge, absorbing all the advice he got from his coaches,” remembers Christophe Raymond, who coached Kante in the club’s reserve team between 2010 and 2012.
“We sensed he had potential but it would be lying to say we thought he could go as far as he has.”
It is a view shared by his old coach back in Rueil.
“He has come on so much. Over the last few years he has taken more and more risks, he gets forward more, and he is now one of the best players in the world.”
France’s World Cup winning midfielder N’Golo Kante is due to return to training with Chelsea after almost a month on the sidelines, said Chelsea manager Frank Lampard.
The manager is counting on the 28-year-old’s return to ease the workload being shared by Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic, who both played the full 90 minutes in the 2-1 League Cup fourth round defeat by Manchester United on Wednesday.
Defeat ended Chelsea’s seven match winning streak and Lampard suggested that the setback was due to a shortage of midfield options.
“He (Kante) is hopefully going to join in training in the next two or three days,” said Lampard.
“Hopefully he will be back before the international break.
“I would have liked to have given Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic a rest because of the work they are putting in.
“I couldn’t because of N’Golo, Ross (Barkley), and Ruben (Loftus-Cheek) out long term.”
Should Kante’s groin injury not suffer a reverse he could be fit to play a role in Chelsea’s home match with Crystal Palace on November 10.
N’Golo Kante insists he is finally growing into his new role in Chelsea’s midfield as the France star prepares for Wednesday’s clash with Southampton.
Kante earned a reputation as the world’s best defensive midfielder after playing a key role in Chelsea and Leicester’s Premier League title triumphs, as well as France’s World Cup victory.
But the 27-year-old has had to adapt to a change of position this season under new Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri.
Sarri, who replaced Antonio Conte in the close-season, brought Jorginho with him from Napoli to play the pivotal midfield role in front of the defence that used to be Kante’s domain.
Sarri believes Jorginho’s superior passing makes him more suited to launching Chelsea’s attacks than Kante, who is now operating in a slightly more advanced role on the right of midfield.
Kante has sometimes looked out of sorts in his different position this season, but he showed signs of getting to grips with it on Sunday, scoring the winner at Crystal Palace with a well-timed run and cool finish.
“This role is something I am enjoying and in a game, I try to make that run sometimes,” Kante said.
“David (Luiz) gave me a good ball and I am happy to score with my left foot and give something to the team.”
Away wins at Watford and Palace made it a happy Christmas for Chelsea.
But with the Blues still trailing 11 points behind leaders Liverpool, their title ambitions have been put on the back burner as they focus on securing a place in next season’s Champions League via a top-four finish.
Currently in fourth place — five points ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal — Sarri’s side will be expected to consolidate that position against a Southampton team struggling to avoid relegation.
Yet Chelsea shouldn’t be complacent after some inconsistent displays of late, including a surprise 1-0 defeat in their last home match against Leicester.
Work in progress
They could be hampered by fitness problems, with Olivier Giroud, Cesc Fabregas, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Pedro and Callum Hudson-Odoi all suffering injuries over Christmas.
Sarri has questioned Chelsea’s mental strength and cutting edge at various times this season and it would be no surprise to see new faces arrive in the January transfer window.
Blues defender David Luiz admits Chelsea are still a work in progress, but he believes Sarri’s philosophy is starting to take hold.
“It’s the connection, training together every day, understanding the philosophy and trying to improve,” Luiz said.
In their first match of 2019, Chelsea are keen to banish the specter of anti-semitic chants from a section of their support after they were criticised for an offensive song about Tottenham fans during recent matches.
Sarri slammed the “stupid” people involved and the club have vowed to take action against the offenders.
The chant has a long history with Chelsea supporters and the issue is complicated by Tottenham fans also singing the offensive word themselves.
Southampton are outside the bottom three only on goal difference after losing successive home matches last week.
They will be without suspended captain Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg at Stamford Bridge after his red card against Manchester City.
“We will miss him, he’s our best midfielder at the club,” Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl said.
N’Golo Kante showed signs he is growing into his more advanced midfield role with a composed finish that gave Chelsea a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Sunday.
Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri has been criticised for moving Kante out of his more familiar position in front of the back four, with Jorginho filling the holding role.
As a result, Kante’s effectiveness this season has been questioned, but the former Leicester City man impressed as he struck the 51st-minute match-winner that helped the Blues tighten their grip on fourth by opening up a five-point gap to Arsenal.
Kante followed a perfectly timed run to meet David Luiz’s chipped pass with a clinical finish to cap a dominant display by Sarri’s side against London rivals Palace.
Chelsea’s failure to add to Kante’s third league goal of the season will have given Sarri some concern, though, and would have proved costly had Palace substitute Connor Wickham has not skied a late chance over the bar.
The Italian manager reshaped his forward line by including Olivier Giroud as the central striker — a decision that handed Alvaro Morata another reminder of his place in the strikers’ pecking order at Stamford Bridge.
The Spaniard was among the substitutes, while Giroud’s inclusion freed Eden Hazard from his recent duties as a false nine, allowing the Belgium international to return to his more familiar position on the left of the front three.
But despite dominating, particularly in the second half, Chelsea’s chances remained limited.
Hazard quickly made the most of his freedom to drift in from the flank, testing the Palace defence with a number of runs from deep.
The Belgian’s 34th-minute run towards the home penalty area drew a foul from Cheikhou Kouyate and led to the game’s first real opportunity.
Willian’s curling free-kick from 25 yards took a deflection off the defensive wall before clipping the outside of Vicente Guaita’s right-hand post.
The Palace goalkeeper did well to punch the resulting corner clear, but Willian almost caught the Spaniard out with a fierce low shot from distance.
This passage of play suggested Chelsea were beginning to assert themselves but Palace’s belief had clearly been strengthened by their victory at champions Manchester City eight days previously.
The home side appeared happy to concede territory in the hope of hitting Chelsea on the break and it was little surprise the game remained locked in a stalemate at half-time.
It did not take long, however, for Sarri’s side to breach the Palace defence at the start of the second half with Luiz injecting the moment of creativity needed to find a way through.
The center-back was allowed time to pick his pass and his perfectly weighted chip fell into the path of Kante who had made a positive run towards the penalty spot.
The France international controlled the ball on his chest before hitting a left-foot shot that flew wide of Guaita’s dive.
Having dominated long periods of the game before the goal, Chelsea assumed total control after Kante’s opening goal.
Guaita was called to save yet again from Willian after the Brazilian was set up by a clever Hazard backheel before Giroud saw his second effort of the game ruled out for offside.
Wickham’s 89th-minute chance gave Sarri’s side a late scare but this was a comfortable Chelsea win.
Chelsea Manager Antonio Conte said Friday that midfielder N’Golo Kante has trained all week and is showing no ill-effects after passing out briefly in the dressing room last week.
The French midfielder missed Sunday’s match against Premier League leaders Manchester City after the incident, which shocked teammates.
“N’Golo is fine,” Conte said at his pre-match press conference. “He trained the whole week. He’s in good form. He’s fine.
“Last week, on Friday, it was very cold. After the training session he passed out briefly in the dressing room.
“The doctor brought him to have many check-ups, to understand his physical condition. But it was all clear. I think that on Sunday he was well, but at the same time it was right not to take a risk, to give him the opportunity not to play and to rest. He’s OK. Every check-up is OK, it is perfect.”
Conte said he had the option of playing either Olivier Giroud or Alvaro Morata up front against struggling Crystal Palace on Saturday. Neither started against City.
“I trust them both and for sure I’m working with them both to bring them in the best physical form and best condition,” he said.
“Morata is coming (back) from a strange injury in his back. He was for a long time out. Giroud is in good form now, is working very well, is working every day and is in good physical condition. I trust a lot in all my players.”
Asked about his team’s confidence after four defeats in their past five Premier League matches, the Italian replied: “For sure, when you lose many games in a row it’s not simple.
“We have to regret the games against Bournemouth, Watford, (Manchester) United. When you play against City there is the possibility to lose the game. Our confidence is normal. We are working very well as always.”
Conte said David Luiz and Ross Barkley were injured and he had to “check a couple of situations”, without going into further detail.
Chelsea midfielder, N’Golo Kante, says winning the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award is a great honour.
The Frenchman told his club’s website that to be chosen as the player of the year means the world to him.
He was named on Sunday night ahead of his Chelsea team-mate Eden Hazard, who was second in the voting, as well as Romelu Lukaku, Harry Kane, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alexis Sanchez, at awards ceremony in London.
Also, Tottenham’s Dele Alli bagged the PFA Young Player of the Year award for the second successive year, while Manchester City’s Lucy Bronze won the PFA Women’s Player of the Year award.
Former England Captain, David Beckham received the PFA Merit Award for his contribution to the game.
Former Chelsea Manager, Jose Mourinho was humiliated on his return to Stamford Bridge on Sunday as the Blues thrashed Manchester United 4-0.
The Blues led after just 30 seconds when Pedro capitalised on slack defending. Smalling hesitated as a long ball flew in, De Gea charged out and Pedro stole in to whip the ball round the ‘keeper into an empty net for what is now the fastest goal of the season.
The evening got worse for Jose Mourinho 20 minutes later. From a corner, the ball broke to Gary Cahill six yards out and he volleyed high into the net past De Gea.
United offered little sign of making a comeback after failing to capitalise on their good spell in the second half and they fell further behind when Eden Hazard drilled in a precise 15-yard strike to make it 3-0.
It was no way back at this point for the Reds. N’golo Kante sealed victory with a stunning goal; his first for Chelsea.
He took the ball after a clever flick from Pedro, brilliantly dribling past Chris Smalling and then rolled sublimely into the corner past David de Gea.
Chelsea with the victory, moved within a point of English Premier League leaders Manchester City who had earlier played a 1-1 draw with Southampton at the Etihad Stadium.