It was Steve Walsh’s famous quote about N’Golo Kante that came to mind when the French stopped another attack on Manchester City.
The Leicester scout pondered that unlikely title win in 2015-16 and revealed the secret to that team’s success. “We’ll play Danny Drinkwater in midfield and N’Golo Kante on either side of him,” Walsh joked.
That’s how it feels at Kante. ‘He is here! He is over there! He is everywhere! N’Golo! N’Golo! Chelsea fans roared regularly during the game. Except they put another word in that chant to make it scan better. Kante may not fully approve of the language, as a humble, quietly spoken Muslim. He will no doubt understand and appreciate the sentiment.
N’Golo Kante was right on Saturday after winning the Champions League
Chelsea’s midfielder was excellent, beating Manchester City 1-0 in the showpiece
The 30-year-old was all over the midfield as he successfully blotted out any City creativity
In the evening, Pep Guardiola tried to throw tenacious midfielders overboard, Kante seemed to be the memory of the tactical base. Except he’s also so much more than the classic holding player. At times his rises in space were a launch pad for Chelsea attacks.
When the festivities started there were some nice cameos. Kurt Zouma just picked up Kante and ran around with him in his arms, which was fitting given that Kante had been carrying teams since appearing in England in 2015 fresh out of Caen, a move that would now not be allowed due to Brexit rules. .
Then he finally got his hands on the trophy. Now anyone who knows Kante will tell you that he is the most humble of type. It was famous that he used to travel on a scooter to training in Boulogne; in Leicester he had a battered old car; When he came to Chelsea his idea of an upgrade was to buy a Mini. A new one, admittedly, but it still looked small, parked next to all those Overfinch Range Rovers.
But on this occasion he had a little bit earned the right to a show boat. So he picked up the cup and lifted it repeatedly as the Chelsea fans roared, his broad smile radiated benevolence.
“We were relentless in the performance,” Thomas Tuchel said afterwards, and it was the ideal word to use them all, but especially Kante.
The Blues number 7 was relentless in the Porto final when they won their second ever European cup
From losing Thiago Silva’s experience through injury in the first half, with Andreas Christensen intervening and barely getting a foot wrong, there was unity and structure for Chelsea, exemplified by Kante. He is a World Cup winner with France, two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Europa League winner and now Champions League winner. Never has a player made so little fuss in collecting all the great trophies in English and world football.
Other heroes were plentiful. When it was all over, Antonio Rudiger ran to the corner and celebrated with fans. Were those who hugged him in their arms the same people who blamed him when Frank Lampard left the club? Could some cheering from outside these bleachers be among those who racially abused him for some alleged mistake that he did not support the former manager, some conceived of infidelity?
If they were, they should at least have the grace to reflect on their hostility and hatred on a Sunday morning. Nobody played with more heart than Rudiger. The block at 28 minutes to deny Phil Foden, which was really the only time Guardiola’s game plan came to fruition, was immense and the platform on which victory was built.
Rudiger had spoken during the week of his youth at the Neukölln estate in Berlin, the child of war refugees from Sierra Leone who was determined to gain a foothold in German life for his parents. He talked about racism and prejudice, about leaving home at the age of 16 to start a new life. He even suffered the horror of racist abuse of his own supporters this season. This was his deliverance and the shame of those ignorant enough to question him.
Antonio Rudiger (right) was a colossus at the heart of Chelsea’s defense when they kept City out
“The effort was enormous,” said Tuchel. ‘We have been through some difficult moments, some dangerous moments. The loss of Thiago Silva did not make this any easier. But we bravely stayed in the formation. ‘
No one was more courageous than Mason Mount, who plays with a zest for life that contradicts his age. All around him we watched veteran Manchester City players, seasoned internationals, seemingly baffled by the opportunity. Mount just did what he did all season: dominated the game. With Callum Hudson-Odoi, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech all starting on the bench, Chelsea is blessed with attacking talent. They should all grow and improve together.
“Once the celebrations are over, we will evolve and learn and get better,” Tuchel said. ‘We have a lot of young players and now we have the big, big challenge to stay hungry. It’s all about the following. I had it before when I won a lower level trophy, the German Cup, with Borussia Dortmund. I haven’t changed much for me. I was no less hungry when we started the next workout after a break. ‘
Thomas Tuchel was only appointed Chelsea manager in January, but has provided cutlery
In theory, Tuchel only has a one-year contract. Perhaps even Chelsea can extend that, although the last manager to win them a Champions League title was fired in November. “Maybe I already have a new contract?” smiled Tuchel. “Let’s see this!”
He just came from a first meeting with owner Roman Abramovich, who was here despite his reluctance to currently travel to the UK. “A perfect time for a first meeting,” said Tuchel, then thought. Or perhaps the worst? Because it can only get worse from now on! ‘
However, you do not suspect so. The owner has given the coach a platform to build on. He even saw his pet project, Kai Havertz, a classic Abramovich signature look good. The only damper on the evening was Timo Werner’s performance and the inability to even find a seat on the couch for academy graduate Tammy Abraham. If they can add a striker, they can challenge City next season in more than just cup competitions.