The French squad is loaded with stars from front to back boasting the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba and Raphaël Varane. The reigning world champions can overwhelm most opposition with their attacking talent. But the most integral part of their lineup is a 5’6 center midfielder who dominates and controls games with his tactical awareness and energy.
Kanté was born in Paris to Malian parents and got a late start to his professional career. Until the age of 25 he was playing for Caen in Ligue 2, the French second division. There Kanté was spotted by Leiciester City who signed him in 2015. He took the Premier League by storm, helping shepherd Leiciester to a shocking title win and leading the Premier League in both interceptions and tackles. After the title winning season, Kanté signed for Chelsea for a reported £32 million fee and immediately fit in helping the London club to win the Premier League in his first season. He swept the player of the year awards winning the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and the Premier League Player of the Season awards.
Kanté made his national team debut in 2016 in the run up to the 2016 Euros. He started in four games at the Euros as France advanced to the final before losing to Portugal. Kanté has remained a mainstay in the French side since then, starting all seven games in France’s successful World Cup campaign in 2018.
The diminutive midfielder has been described by the French media as a successor to Claude Makélélé, the legendary defensive midfielder. He is a box to box player who frequently wins the ball and regains possession for his team. While Kanté often provides a platform for more attacking players to score, he is also capable of playmaking and creating chances himself. His boundless energy means that he can make late attacking runs and still recover defensively to stifle opposing attacks. Kanté is also legendarily humble, in the aftermath of the World Cup victory he was reportedly too shy to ask to hold the trophy himself so a teammate had to intervene on his behalf.
French national team manager Didier Deschamps has favored a more defensive style that fits Kanté perfectly and he has served as one of the crucial players for his country during their recent run of success and will look to perform the same role at the Euros as France try to reassert their superiority.