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N’Golo Kante has proved he’s one of the most valuable players in soccer no matter his position

N’Golo Kante has proved he’s one of the most valuable players in soccer no matter his position

A couple of years ago, N’Golo Kante might have been the most valuable soccer player in the world.

In August 2015, Leicester City signed the relatively unknown French midfielder from Caen for £5.6 million. The season before his arrival, Leicester finished with 41 points. In Kante’s only season with the club, Leicester finished with 81 points, winning the most improbable championship in the history of modern sports.nike nfl jerseys for cheap

Ignore any other context and it looks like Kante alone was worth something like 40 points a year. That’s obviously not quite true, but it certainly seemed like Kante was one of those rare players who could significantly elevate his team’s performance without putting the ball into the back of the net. And in the summer of 2017, a group of researchers from the University of Salford and University College of London published a paper that supported this very idea.1

They created a number of models to determine a player’s “plus-minus” rating, that is comparing how a team performs when a player is on the field with how it performs when he’s not. These models are tricky and imperfect because unlike in basketball, most teams don’t spend a significant amount of time with their starters off the field; therefore you get things like Manchester City’s Claudio Bravo being the second-highest rated player in the world for the 2016-17 season. However, the results of the research also seemed to verify what everyone at Stamford Bridge and the King Power Stadium was thinking about Kante.

“The paper presents a method for estimating how important each player is to a team’s success,” Ian McHale, one of the paper’s authors, said over email. “For the seasons under consideration, Kante was found to be the player contributing the most to a team’s success. And this doesn’t just mean Leicester and Chelsea, but a hypothetical team made up of any set of players: Kante would contribute the most.”

Except, in the two seasons since then, something has happened that had never happened before … and it’s happened two seasons in a row: The team Kante plays for didn’t win the Premier League. In 17-18, Chelsea finished in fifth and last year, they landed third.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

However, Sarri claimed he needed a different player profile in his holding midfield role. “In that position, I want a player able to move the ball very fast… N’Golo is very useful for us, but this one is not his best characteristic.”

In August, Lampard echoed those thoughts. “This idea that he wins the ball probably as well as anybody in world football doesn’t mean that he has to sit in front of the back four and do that. He also has too much in his game to drive forward with the ball, to lead midfield areas and win the ball back high up the pitch. That’s what I want to give him the freedom to do.”

Even when France won the 2018 World Cup, Didier Deschamps opted to play Paul Pogba, of all people, in the holding role with Kante given the kind of freedom that Lampard talks about: license to win the back higher up the field.