France’s midfielder N’Golo Kante (R) vies with Paraguay’s midfielder Ivan Ramirez during the friendly football match between France and Paraguay on June 2, 2017 at the Roazhon park stadium in Rennes, western France. / AFP PHOTO / DAMIEN MEYER
N’Golo Kante’s inability to claim a regular starting berth at international level sums up the strength in depth France have at their disposal, admits England manager Gareth Southgate.
The midfielder won both the Players’ Player of the Year and Football Writers’ Association award after helping Chelsea land the Premier League title this season.
The 26-year-old also starred for Leicester City in their remarkable run to the title last year, but Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi started ahead of him for France in last Friday’s World Cup qualifying defeat in Sweden.
Southgate and England are in France for a friendly in Paris on Tuesday.
When asked at a press conference on Monday about French coach Didier Deschamps’ decision to leave out 16-times capped Kante, Southgate said: “He’s got a strong squad!
“I watched France live in the European Championship last summer and thought Kante was excellent in the first game against Romania but they have some very good players.
“Kante has been a revelation in our league for two years and it’s nice he’s had recognition this season because I thought at Leicester last year he was the most important player in the team.”
The emergence of teen sensation Kylian Mbappe in the last six months also underlines the remarkable amount of talent coming out of France, according to Southgate.
The 18-year-old could start Tuesday’s game after a stunning second half of the season in which he helped Monaco win the French title and reach the Champions League semi-finals.
“He has had an excellent season — we have seen him in the Champions League of course — and it is an indication of the depth of talent that they have,” Southgate told reporters.
But is he worth the kind of astronomical sums being suggested, with Real Madrid, Arsenal and the two Manchester clubs all being linked with bids in excess of 100 million euros (£88.5m, $112m)?
“Well he is only worth that if he comes to England I expect, or he goes to Real Madrid or Barcelona,” Southgate added.
“The market is what it is. Our league is rich in terms of resource, so prices are affected.
“The price to an English club is different to if he goes somewhere else, so it’s like if you sell your house: it is worth what someone is prepared to pay.”