Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic has told Sky Sports that he thinks the club’s new signing N’golo Kante is a better player than former Blues enforcer Claude Makelele.
Kante was signed from defending Premier League champions Leicester City for £32 million this summer, having taken the English top-flight by storm with the Foxes on their way to an unlikely title win last season. He protected the Leicester defence in a position that has informally been named after his fellow countryman and Chelsea old boy: The Makalele Role.
Matic returned for his second spell at Chelsea in 2014 and has been impressed by what he’s seen from Kante so far. He believes that the 25-year-old could be vital to new head coach Antonio Conte’s way of playing, as the Italian attempts to get Chelsea back into the top-four after a disappointing tenth place finish last time out. He said, “He is very important for us, especially in that position. You have to give balance to the team and he knows how he needs to do that job. He is very important for us”.
Matic has played in the defensive midfield role himself in the past and has been impressed by how well Kante seems to have taken to it. He said, “I know how difficult it is to play that position and I’m very happy because N’Golo is doing very well and is going to be a very important player for us, maybe one of the most important players in this season. It is very hard for him and it’s going to be hard, but I’m sure that he is ready”.
Comparisons to Makelele, who played for Chelsea from 2003 until 2008 and made over 200 appearances for the West London club, do a dis-service to Chelsea’s new number 7 according to Matic. He said, “Many people say that he is the new Makelele, but I don’t think so. Makelele was a great player and we all respect him, me especially because I know that position and how it is difficult to play. But I think that N’Golo is better than him. He is doing his defensive job very well and with the ball he has some extra quality”.
It’s high praise indeed from a player who was rumoured to be leaving Chelsea this summer, with the arrival of the former Leicester midfielder heralding his departure according to some. He was linked with a move to Juventus after the Serie A side sold Paul Pogba to Manchester United, but told Sky Sports that a conversation with the former Italy national manager who is now in charge at Stamford Bridge persuaded him to stay on and work to keep his place.
He said, “To be honest I spoke with him. I spoke with the club and we both decided that it was best for the club and for me to stay. I’m very happy because I’m now here with this team and this club”.
Matic’s decision to stay in West London has been justified by the fact that he’s started every league game for the Blues so far this season and they have won all three of their opening matches. He’s now determined to help them get back to the top of the table and to push for another Premier League title. He said, “I will give my best and all my quality to help the team to challenge for the title. As I said, I’m very happy to be here. I want to improve my game and I’m sure Conte is the right coach to do that”.