We begin our series reviewing each Chelsea player’s 2020/21 season by looking in detail at N’Golo Kante’s campaign, which peaked at just the right time…
Kante was already a true Chelsea great but he cemented his status as a club legend with a man of the match performance in the Champions League final. He had also been the outstanding player in both legs of the semi-final, against Real Madrid, so there was no worthier winner of Europe’s top prize on that balmy May day.
Injury had hampered Kante in the truncated 2019/20 campaign but that was not the case this time around, with the midfielder unavailable for just seven games in all competitions. Only Mason Mount and Timo Werner made more appearances than Kante’s 48.
His performance levels rarely dipped and when the season reached its business end, he was arguably our most outstanding performer, leading many pundits to tip him to win the 2021 Ballon d’Or.
Kante started our first 17 league fixtures, mostly at the base of Frank Lampard’s three-man midfield. He was still given licence to get forward when the time was right, and registered an assist for Timo Werner’s goal in the 4-1 win over Sheffield United that showcased the best of our attacking play in autumn.
Remaining solid as a team proved problematic, however, and the end of Lampard’s time in charge was not helped by Kante’s unavailability through suspension and then a hamstring injury. He missed Thomas Tuchel’s first two games and after featuring off the bench in the next three league fixtures, Kante held down a starting berth for most of the rest of the season.
With Chelsea changing shape under Tuchel, Kante reprised the central midfield role he excelled in during his first two seasons at Chelsea. He supplied the long pass that found Mason Mount who scored at Liverpool, and Kante was also at his very best in the vital victories at West Ham and Man City that went a long way to securing our place in the top four.
Plenty of Kante’s individual highlights came in the knockout competitions. He captained the side at Barnsley in the FA Cup fifth round, and registered his 200th Chelsea appearance in the Champions League victory at Atletico Madrid later in February.
In the second leg, he produced a mindboggling 94th-minute sprint from well inside his own half to create the space so Emerson could seal a fabulous European victory.
He was named man of the match in the ‘home’ game against Porto in the next round, thrived at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final success over Man City, and then twice dominated Real Madrid’s much vaunted midfield trio of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro as we impressively booked our place in European football’s showpiece fixture.
'I don't think there is a more important player for his team in world football than N'Golo Kante. He is Makelele plus extras!'
— Joe Cole
In Porto, Kante was a giant among men, winning more aerial duels than any Chelsea player and registering the highest number of ball recoveries, disrupting Man City’s passing game and helping us launch threatening counter-attacks. It crowned another magnificent year in blue for N’Golo, who is now behind only Cesar Azpilicueta for Chelsea appearances.
N'Golo Kante 2020/21 Chelsea stats
Unused sub: 2
Minutes played: 3,379
N'Golo Kante Premier League appearances 2020/21
N'Golo Kante played 30 games in the Premier League for Chelsea this season, coming off the bench for six of them.
N'Golo Kante Champions League appearances 2020/21
N'Golo Kante played in all 13 games of our victorious Champions League campaign, coming off the bench in six of them. He was man of the match four times in the knockout stages.
N'Golo Kante FA Cup appearances 2020/21
N'Golo Kante played four games in the FA Cup this season, one of them from the bench. He captained against Barnsley.
N'Golo Kante Carabao Cup appearances 2020/21
N'Golo Kante's solitary Carabao Cup appearance this season was off the bench.
N'Golo Kante goals 2020/21
N'Golo Kante did not score any goals for Chelsea in 2020/21.