Friday 22 September 2017

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte: N'Golo Kante is a better version of me

N'Golo Kante is targeting a Premier League and FA Cup double in his first season at Chelsea
N'Golo Kante is targeting a Premier League and FA Cup double in his first season at Chelsea

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte sees something of himself in N'Golo Kante - but says the France midfielder is even better.

Conte had an illustrious playing career with Juventus and Italy while Kante is on course to win the Premier League for a second successive season after swapping Leicester for Chelsea.

Kante has excelled as Chelsea have taken a commanding lead in the Premier League and Conte praised his selfless approach.

Speaking ahead of Monday's FA Cup quarter-final with Manchester United, Conte said: "I like a lot these type of players. I was this type of player.

"And I always appreciated this type of player, with great generosity, with great ability to work for the team.

"I think it's important to have this type of player if we want to win. Not only great talent, but players who run a lot during a game.

"I think I was stronger than him to score goals but, in the other aspects, there is no contest. He is stronger than me."

Former Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri used to urge Kante to rest during training, but Conte has no desire to instruct the midfielder to do so.

"I don't want to stop him," Conte said.

"I remember (former Juventus and Italy boss Giovanni) Trapattoni tried to stop me (running) during training, telling me to go into the changing room because I had to run during the game.

"I wasn't happy about this. I wanted to stay with my team-mates."

Conte believes Kante can improve, not least by looking to pass forwards first.

But his attitude is faultless.

Conte added: "He has always a smile on his face. It's fantastic.

"During training sessions he works a lot, but always with a smile.

"To see this, it's great for the other players, the staff, for me, the people who work at Chelsea.

"N'Golo is a fantastic guy, fantastic player, great commitment, great behaviour. He's a great example."

Kante is a candidate for player of the year. Conte would not be drawn on his nominee, but hopes it is a Chelsea player honoured at the end of the season.

He added: "I hope with all my heart that, at the end of the season, it will be a Chelsea player. Because it means that, probably, we have won the league."

Kante is likely to come up against Paul Pogba when Jose Mourinho's United visit Stamford Bridge.

Pogba played under Conte at Juventus before returning to Old Trafford for a world record fee of £89 million.

Conte added: "I think it's very difficult to try and compare Paul with N'Golo - two players with different characteristics. Two top players, but different."

Conte says Pogba is "a top player in all situations", but Chelsea have no particular plan to combat the midfielder.

United will be eager to perform better than they did in a 4-0 loss in the Premier League last October.

He added: "We are working to try to find the right solution for the whole team, not only for Paul Pogba or for only one player.

"For sure, we are studying Manchester United to try and find the right solution.

"Paul is a really good player and we must pay great attention to him, above all when he arrives in the box.

"But we must think about the whole Manchester United team. They're very strong."

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