N’Golo Kante watched EURO 2012 on TV. He’s now looking to take the knockout stages of EURO 2016 by storm.
Just four years ago, French midfielder N’Golo Kante was aspiring to take a big step up from amateur football in the semi-pro ranks of France’s division three.
Now he is a Premier League champion, having helped Leicester to an unlikely victory over the giants of Manchester and London.
What’s more Kante has begun to establish himself as a pivotal part of the French national midfield.
It’s difficult to describe Kante’s career development in recent seasons, without using the word “meteoric”.
Indeed, club achievements aside, having only made his debut for France in March, and only having 6 caps to his name, he is already being talked about as the second coming of Claude Makelele.
Not since the legendary former Real Madrid and Chelsea anchor-man have France boasted a midfielder with so much discipline, work-rate and selflessness.
Small in stature and substantial more than stylish, it is perhaps no surprise that he was largely invisible to the naked eye in the French third tier.
Not until lowly Caen plucked him from the even greater obscurity of Boulogne, did his career begin to take off.
Following this summer 2013 transfer, Kante ultimately helped his new employer to gain promotion into Ligue 1.
After just one season at this elite level, he arrived on the radar of Leicester City. A club with a commitment to unearthing and developing undervaued talents.
Before long, Kante became one of manager Claudio Ranieri’s key players, alongside the likes of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.
He has finally found the spotlight, not through boot deals and TV adverts but through unerring consistency, uncanny fitness levels, a relentless competitive tenacity and a willingness to allow his team-mates to take the spotlight.
From worrying about whether even a part-time career in football was a realistic possibility, Kante, four years on, is now being courted by Europe’s finest clubs. Both Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger and Paris Saint Germain’s Laurent Blanc are said to be admirers.
Perhaps finding a kindred spirit in France Head Coach Didier ‘The Water Carrier’ Deschamps, Kante has been able to quickly settle into the French national select.
He scored a goal on his second cap and is currently acquitting himself well in the ongoing Euros, adapting equally capably to France’s 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 system variations.
Whether N’Golo Kante links up with France team-mates like Blaise Matuidi or Olivier Giroud, at club level next season, remains to be seen.