The Ballon d’Or is the most prestigious individual accolade in football. Hosted by French football, the upcoming awards ceremony may see a Frenchman take the award for the first time in 23 years.
N’Golo Kante is currently one of the best footballers in the world and has solidified the claim with exceptional performances in the last few months.
The Frenchman can cover every single blade of grass and outrun opponents over the full length of 90 minutes. This was evident in the Champions League final, as N’Golo Kante was a massive part of the reason why Manchester City managed only a single shot on target.
He has an abundance of energy along with tremendous talent and has backed it up with 5 of football’s biggest trophies in the last 6 years.
The highest N’Golo Kante has ever finished in Ballon d’Or voting was eighth in 2017, but in 2021 he needs to be higher up that list. If he isn’t, it would be the biggest snub imaginable for the man who was the most important player during Chelsea’s run to the 2020/21 Champions League title.
The 30-year-old was named as UEFA’s man of the match for the semi-final first leg, the semi-final second leg, and the final. That’s incredible and all three of these accomplishments were deserved.
Past Winners Of Ballon D’or
Looking at the winners of the Ballon d’Or across the years, you’d be forgiven for thinking that football is a game that’s only about attacking and scoring goals.
Even before becoming dominated by the duopoly of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the award for the supposed “best” player in football favoured strikers, especially in modern times.
Many decades ago, midfielders might have had a chance, though still most of the attacking persuasion.
Only 1 goalkeeper, Lev Yashin, and 3 defenders (Fabio Cannavaro, Matthias Sammer, Franz Beckenbauer) have ever won it in 64 years — and arguably only Cannavaro got it because of his defensive contributions to the team.
But perhaps there is some light at the end of that narrowly focused tunnel that usually lies at the intersection of popularity and football politics.
Luka Modrić, primarily a playmaker, got the award in 2018, and Virgil van Dijk lost out by just 7 points to Lionel Messi in 2019, the last time the award was held.
It was canceled for some unfathomable reason last year, even though football was still being played during the pandemic (thus denying, probably, Robert Lewandowski the award).
Fast forward to the post-Messi era, the morality of the award can become more relevant as it should be again. And what better way to start that than to give it to N’Golo Kanté, the man who just led Chelsea to a Champions League trophy with a Man of the Match performance in the final after keying a rather dominant run through the knockout rounds.
Why Kante Deserve The Ballon D’or
Now, let’s process some of the reasons why N’Golo Kante could win the Ballon d’Or this year. He’s arguably the “best ball-winner in the world”
One of the primary reasons for Chelsea’s glorious 2020/21 Champions League campaign was N’Golo Kante’s assured presence in midfield.
Heaping praise on Kante, Thomas Tuchel once said in an interview,
“If you play with N’Golo Kante you always play with a minimum half a man more; this is unique.”
The likes of Casemiro and Kimmich are regarded as the best defensive midfielders in world football, but N’Golo Kante’s exceptional performances in the second half of the season have made a strong case for the Frenchman.
Kante’s Stats For Chelsea
Kante is a dynamic ball carrier from midfield who can intercept and win balls back for Chelsea time and time again. At the same time, he is an excellent passer of the ball and registered a passing accuracy of over 85% in the Premier League season.
The World Cup winner averaged over 50 passes in every league match this season. N’Golo Kante is arguably the best defensive midfielder in world football at the moment, especially due to his exceptional skill of smothering opposition attacks.
“He was a massive influence in the middle third of the pitch both with and without the ball and formed an excellent partnership with Jorginho,” said UEFA technical observers John Peacock and Patrick Vieira, after the victory over Manchester City.
The former Foxes’ midfielder has registered a tackle success rate of 53% in the 2020/21 Premier League with a staggering tally of 79 tackles and 59 interceptions.
A Fantastic Year 2021 For Kante
It may not have been Kanté’s best season for Chelsea, but he’s been unbelievable on the biggest stages. Often, it’s those performances that sway the minds of voters.
After a slow start to the season under Frank Lampard, N’Golo Kante has rediscovered his best form since the ingenious appointment of Thomas Tuchel.
One of the primary reasons for Chelsea’s revival in form in the second half of the season has been Kante’s return to form. The Frenchman seemed to struggle in Frank Lampard’s 4-3-3 system but looks at home in Tuchel’s system of two deep-lying playmakers.
Thomas Tuchel’s arrival gave Chelsea a new lease of life, and the former PSG man has effectively used Chelsea’s world-class defensive reserves. With two of the best fullbacks in Premier League football, along with talents like Mount, Havertz, and Werner at their disposal, Chelsea has been able to emphasize a solid defensive structure.
The Blues’ have benefited tremendously from Tuchel’s system of three central defenders, supported by two holding midfielders.
Kante failed to get going as the central midfielder in Lampard’s flat midfield three but finds himself in his preferred defensive midfield role under Thomas Tuchel.
A turn in form has propelled Kante into winning back-to-back Champions League Man of the Match awards, and also in the final.
N’Golo Kante Has Everyone’s Respect in the Footballing World
The Frenchman is one of the most adored players in the footballing world and has received the love and adoration of fans and players alike.
Paul Pogba spoke about his French teammate in an interview,
“You’ve got to love him (Kante), you cannot hate him, it is not possible.”
The winner of every year’s Ballon D’Or is elected through voting by reputed journalists.
Each FIFA nation gets to post one ballot each, which is decided by the football journalists of the country. Players are ranked from one to five; with six points for first place, four for the second, three for third place, and so on.
N’Golo Kante commands enormous respect from the football fraternity and is one of the most humble and down-to-earth footballers. This will play a massive role in deciding who wins the prestigious Ballon d’Or.
“It’s straightforward, yes [he is the best in the world]. He does everything. The energy he brings, I don’t know how many ball recoveries he had today. The way he drives the ball forward, he covers so much ground.
“It is special to have him. Of course, when we don’t have him we miss him. After winning the World Cup and now Champions League, he is still so humble as a person. I am so happy for him, he is a massive part of this team and I am very happy to have him next to me for a few years.” -César Azpilicueta; source: Goal
Chelsea hero Mario Melchiot was just as gushing with his praise of 30-year-old Kante. He also opted to compare the midfielder to Makelele, his former teammate, but due to their style of play.
He said on Monday’s talkSPORT Breakfast: “Kante, oh my God. If you don’t like him, you don’t know anything about football.”
Melchiot added: “You know what I like about him? It’s a little bit what I had with Makelele. They are similar guys in the way they are built. I don’t want to say how they play because that’s me bringing in something that’s not necessary.
“Sometimes they walk next to you and they look like your little brother but the moment they put the kit on they become your big brother.
“I feel like Kante is something like that. You see this little guy you look at him and [think] ‘why would I be scared by a man like you?’ And then when you’re on the field with him you go like, ‘Oh, this little man becomes a giant’ and he runs the show.
“Tuchel said it himself. He said, ‘I don’t want to start this game without him, because he knows what he brings to the team.
“Arguably, we can talk about different kinds of players, Havertz scored a great goal, and stuff like that but who brings the balance to the team is always the leader, and that why, for me, Kante is it.”
There is a long way to go, as we’re only halfway through 2021. But, right now on May 31, N’Golo Kante has been the best player of 2021.