Can Leicester new boy N’Golo Kante jump from Caen to Cambiasso role?
Leicester City fans must have been whipped into a frenzy over reports that the Foxes were about to snatch experienced internationals Charles Aranguiz of Chile and Switzerland skipper Gokhan Inler from the clutches of historically bigger clubs.
Yet new King Power coach Claudio Ranieri’s search for a leader to plug the heart of Leicester’s midfield, where Esteban Cambiasso toiled last term, has turned up a rather under-the-radar and all-together less glamorous name instead.
Paris-born N’Golo Kante is one of the Foxes’ latest fresh faces, following Robert Huth, Christian Fuchs and Shinji Okazaki to the club over the off-season, but becomes the first signing, closely followed by centre back Yohan Benalouane, on newly appointed Ranieri’s watch. Is it a wise one?
— Leicester City (@OfficialFOXES) August 3, 2015
Of course it was always going to be tough to fill class act Cambiasso’s role, but a combination of Aranguiz, reportedly Bayer Leverkusen-bound, and Inler, destined for Napoli’s Serie A rivals Fiorentina, would have gone a long way to consoling support over the loss of a cult hero.
Yet the East Midlands outfit’s ambition was unfortunately more powerful than its appeal, despite a rumoured club-record bid, with Aranguiz so far avoiding capture. The Chile international told press: “between Leverkusen and Leicester, the best is Leverkusen; they’re a bigger team. I want to go.” That has got to sting.
The Foxes (3/1 with Coral to be relegated) appear to have bounced back immediately and, though Kante was long tipped for a switch to Leicester, it is difficult to believe he was first-choice.
Tough-tackling Kante has a tricky task on his hands to marshal a midfield that often looked pedestrian without it’s star Argentine, and though the all-action dynamo has caught the eye for Caen, the Premier League is a completely different beast.
Leicester are not the only club to have plundered spoils from across the channel, though English sides should be careful of doing so, as the standard of French football outside the moneyed big-guns is often lacking.
That is not to say plenty of gems have not been unearthed in Ligue 1 before, but Ranieri cannot afford to slip up with recruitment for such a crucial role and, at 24, Kante lacks proven pedigree.
Having turned out 37 times in the French top-flight last term, providing five assists and two strikes, the midfielder of Malian descent does not lack for experience as a starter, but it was his first season in Ligue 1.
See Kante’s highlights:
Such a rise to the main stage and then quickly on to the bright lights of the Premier League, not to mention increased pressure and scrutiny which accompanies that, must be dizzying.
Leicester (16/1 to finish bottom) will most likely at some point become embroiled in the relegation tussle and, while Kante has the tenacity and skillset to take on an anchoring role, the Foxes need a cool head to play an almost coaching position on the pitch.
Should Kante initially arrive as a squad player, he could well thrive at the Foxes, but it is to be hoped that Ranieri also has an experienced competitor on his radar as well, to help ease his newest signing’s transition. Should Leicester expect their fourth summer buy to hit the ground running, however, there may be trouble ahead.