French international, N’Golo Kante, arrived at Stamford Bridge last summer coming off of a movie-worthy championship campaign with the Leicester City. His £32m price-tag was preposterously low then and nothing short of laughable now.
The addition of the diminutive defensive midfielder played a vital role in the Blues resurgence to the top of English football, while his former squad wallowed in mid-table mediocrity. This profound impact was recognized and rewarded with 3 player of the year awards and interest from the world’s most prestigious clubs.
Now, a year on, another Frenchman is bound for West London for nearly £40m. Tiemoue Bakayoko, a 23-year old midfield destroyer, was signed from Monaco on July 15th after a lengthy tweet-filled transfer saga.
The countrymen possess very similar games with the nod in terms of defensive prowess going to Kante, while Bakayoko is the more proficient on ball offensive threat (I use this loosely). These two working in tandem provide enhanced support for Chelsea’s back 3 and as a result unlocks their attacking threats going forward, affording Eden Hazard, Pedro, the newly signed Alvaro Morata, and co. the freedom to take risks.
Having two players with seemingly endless energy patrolling the middle of the pitch will terrorize Premier League opponents for years to come and make Chelsea a serious contender as they dip their toe back into the Champions League this season.
Bakayoko has one French senior cap under his belt, a game he spent playing alongside his new club teammate, Kante, and hopes the move will solidify that partnership when Les Bleus head to Russia in 2018 as one of the World Cup favorites.
“N’Golo Kante has proved it all… He was the best player in the Premier League last season in the middle of the pitch and that is not easy… To play alongside him would be something very good for me and it can help me progress… I have played a match with him for the French national team so we know each other very well and I hope we can do beautiful things together this year.” - Tiemoue Bakayoko on N’Golo Kante
Both men have incredible work rates, which may be a result of their less than ideal beginnings in soccer and also the thing that has propelled them to London’s most successful club.
Bakayoko was always heralded for his physical traits as a young man, but his lack of focus and dedication to his craft lead to risks and mistakes and a debut season at Monaco primarily spent on the bench in 2014.
His transformation into a top transfer target started with his decision to rededicate himself to the game, done ceremoniously by painting his £90,000 pink Porsche Cayenne black.
Then it took the tutelage of former Chelsea legend, Claude Makelele, taking Bakayoko under his wing while he worked at Monaco. And these changes unlocked the potential to be 1/2 of what can be the most dominating midfield tandem in England.
Kante on the other hand, was never lauded for his physical ability, at just 5’6″, he was doubted during each step of his eventual rise to player of the year honors.
A profile written about him at Bleacher Report by Tom Williams is well worth the read, but I warn you, it will make you wonder what excuse you have to not get up for that 8 AM.
With Bakayoko missing the start of the Premier League season following a minor knee surgery and a host of other question marks around top players, teams will have a brief reprieve before they see Chelsea at full strength. However, for this tandem it is day 1 and just a matter of time before it becomes the most feared England’s top flight has to offer.
For all of you that (wrongly) have chosen allegiances outside of SW6, you have been warned.
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