N'Golo Kante has many things in common with Claude Makelele.
For example, both are best known as tireless French midfielders who won the Premier League title (twice, in Makelele’s case) with Chelsea while also enjoying hugely successful international careers (Kante seems a surefire bet to do so over the next half-decade) with Les Bleus.
Don’t, however, go comparing Kante to Makelele, undoubtedly one of the great central/defensive midfielders of his generation (and all time), just yet. While Makelele acknowledges and respects Kante’s meteoric rise since turning professional in the third tier of French football in 2012, at age 21, he’s quick to point out his countryman’s body of work is still incomplete — quotes from Reuters:
“At the moment Kante is special and one of the best midfielders. The problem is, I played 25 years in football at this level and comparisons are being made in a bad way.”
“This season he did not play in the Champions League. Every four days there will be games. With the national team there will be games. There will be a lot of games. He needs to get that experience.
“When he is at that level, he will not run 90 minutes all the time. He will need to listen to the rhythm, the way he plays. This will be key for him. I hope this will be the situation. I hope he does better than I did in my career.”
Indeed, Makelele was a star for Chelsea for his five seasons at Stamford Bridge (five major trophies), which followed three trophy-filled seasons at Real Madrid (two La Liga titles and a UEFA Champions League triumph), and will forever be remembered as the player who revolutionized the defensive midfield position, in which Kante thrives much in the same way today.