Conte praises ‘assassino’ Kante
When Antonio Conte was told to stop running so much in training and sent to the changing room by Juventus manager Giovanni Trapattoni, it irritated the then-midfielder.
More than two decades on, Conte daren’t do that to N’Golo Kante, the Chelsea roadrunner who will go up against Manchester United in the FA Cup on Monday.
As far as Chelsea’s manager is concerned, he and the 25-yearold share more than similar names.
Conte sees Kante as a better version of himself from his playing career. He never stopped running for Juventus back then and neither does Chelsea’s contender for PFA Player of the Year now. Not even at their Cobham training ground.
“I don’t want to stop him,” Conte says.
“In my career, I remember Trapattoni tried to stop me from running during training, telling me to go into the changing room because I had to run during the game.
“I wasn’t happy about this. I wanted to stay with my teammates.
“N’Golo is a great player and he always puts 100 per cent in the game, but also in training.”
So has he tried to send Kante inside at Cobham? “No, never,” Conte continues. “I never tried to do this.
“I like this type of player a lot. I was this type of player. And I always appreciated this type of player, with great generosity, great ability to work for the team.”
Chelsea’s contracted killer on the pitch — or ‘assassino’ to his Italian coach — is aiming to win a second successive title after Leicester City’s 5,000-1 triumph last season.
Kante has helped Conte’s Chelsea go 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League – and 17 ahead of Jose Mourinho’s United.
Tomorrow, though, their focus is on the FA Cup in a tie that will see Kante meet Paul Pogba in midfield at Stamford Bridge.
Conte knows Pogba well, having coached him at Juventus where they won two Serie A titles together. Chelsea’s manager has a plan in place for the £89million (RM482 million) footballer.
“We are talking about a top, top player,” Conte said. “A top player in all situations.
“We are studying Manchester United to try to find the right solution.
Paul is a really good player and we must pay great attention to him, above all when he arrives in the box.
“We must think about the whole Manchester United team. They’re very strong.”
Kante is known as one of Chelsea’s quieter players at Cobham, though he is constantly wearing a grin. So can he be called their smiling assassin?
“Ah, assassino,” Conte said. “No, no. It’s a good smile. Not an assassin’s smile.
“It’s the smile of a good guy, and he is a really good guy.
According to Conte, though, Kante is not complete. He can still improve — a scary thought for supporters of opposing Premier League clubs.
“He played very well in the past, last season, with Leicester,” Conte said. “He’s playing very well also this season with us.
“We are working on some aspects to try to improve him, to make him a more complete player.”
Finally, then, one last question for Chelsea’s manager. If he and Kante are so similar, are we watching Conte version 2.0?
Conte laughs then says: “No. He is stronger than me. There is no contest.”
N’Golo Kante is aiming to win a second successive title after Leicester City’s triumph last season.