It’s been a month or so since the summer transfer window closed, and the impending cold temperatures of October usually correspond with the increasing heat of January transfer window rumors. That’s what we got today, kinda, and it involves a player that will turn some heads.
Footmercato is reporting today that Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante could potentially leave the club this summer (or even sooner) and that he’s been “offered” by Chelsea to both Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.
Info: Bien qu'il aimerait rester à Chelsea, il y a en l'état, peu de chance que N'Golo Kanté prolonge avec les Blues.— Santi Aouna (@Santi_J_FM) October 6, 2022
▶️ En cas de départ, Kanté souhaite rester en Angleterre et plus précisément à Londres.
▶️ Proposé à Arsenal et Tottenham.https://t.co/64QjWDEwaS
So here’s the gist: Kante’s contract expires at the end of the summer. He’s reportedly been in on-again-off-again talks with Chelsea, with whom he’s been for seven years since signing from the Premier League champion Leicester City side, but is demanding a four year contract. That’s causing Chelsea to balk, because it would be a significant outlay for a player who is already 31 years old and who as of late has not been able to stay anywhere close to healthy. It’s unlikely that the Blues will offer him a new deal.
So Chelsea are now considering just letting him walk as a free agent when his contract expires, but are offering him to other clubs as well. There’s probably no shortage of teams on the continent who would take a chance on an aging, frequently injured N’golo Kante — PSG comes to mind here. But the article claims that Kante would like to stay in London, where he feels settled and happy. That’s really the extent of the Tottenham links — Arsenal and Spurs are listed as potential candidates because they’re the two London clubs that are the most ambitious and currently playing at the highest level.
So is this a solid rumor? Not really. But it’s not out of the realm of possibility that if certain dominoes fall the right way Tottenham could have Kante fall right into their laps. But do we want that to happen? At his peak, Kante was one of the most dominant defensive midfielders in world football, and when he’s healthy he’s still a damn good player. I’d argue he’d walk straight into Antonio Conte’s midfield without too much trouble.
But Kante’s been off his peak for a while now, is reaching the age where we should expect diminishing returns, and just can’t seem to stay anything close to healthy. In fact, he’s currently injured, has only played two league matches for Chelsea this season, and has not taken the pitch since the middle of August.
Injuries aside, there’s also a legitimate concern that signing Kante would further impede the development of younger players like Oliver Skipp. I have a little bit of a harder time accepting that as a reason not to sign Kante — there will be plenty of minutes to go around, and you make that move because a healthy old man Kante is better than a still-developing Skipp when viewed in context — but it’s a reasonable concern. Even so, there’s an argument that Kante would be like Tottenham’s Thiago — an aging, expensive, walking injury risk that is still a plus-add even if you factor in that he won’t be playing in every game. We used similar logic to sign Ivan Perisic this summer (even though the jury is currently out as to whether that was worth the cost).
Kante is reportedly on close to £290k/wk in salary at Chelsea. Spurs could probably swing that (we’re a rich club now!), but it’s a hefty chunk out of the remaining wage bill that could go towards someone younger.
And there’s another possible wrinkle: it’s been widely reported that Kante is one of the Premier League players that remains unvaccinated for COVID-19. There are unsubstantiated rumors that suggest Tottenham has a policy that requires all club employees, including players, be vaccinated. If true, would that hold up any potential move for Kante? It’s not clear. This might be a major issue, or it could be nothing. But it’s worth at least mentioning.
I’ve spent a lot of time here writing about a rumor that quite possibly won’t even happen. The connections are a little specious, and there are ample reasons to wonder if this is as big of a deal as the headlines proclaims. Really, it comes down to whether as a fan you feel like signing a player like Kante is worth it when everything is factored in. Personally, I think if given the opportunity I’d do it. But I also wouldn’t disagree with others that would make another choice, and I expect vigorous debate on the hypotheticals in the comments.
I think we can all agree, however, that the worst possible outcome is that Kante heads to Arsenal on a Bosman. Right?