How Antonio Conte stopped N’Golo Kante from signing for Arsenal

Antonio Conte signed for Chelsea from Leicester in the summer of 2016
Antonio Conte signed for Chelsea from Leicester in the summer of 2016 (Picture: Getty)

The course of Premier League history would have been changed forever had it not been for an opportunistic late intervention from Antonio Conte, who stole N’Golo Kante away from Arsenal in the summer of 2016.

Kante shot to prominence during Leicester City’s miraculous Premier League title-winning campaign, before starring at the heart of Les Bleus’ midfield on their way to finishing as runners-up on home soil at Euro 2016.

The defensive midfielder had already been firmly on Arsene Wenger’s radar following his exploits for Caen, but the former Arsenal manager thought he had finally landed a long-term target shortly after the European Championships.

Conte, however, had other ideas and, according to the Telegraph, launched a charm offensive of his own which ultimately proved successful after he convinced Kante in a phone conversation that he would win back-to-back Premier League winners’ medals, were he to snub Arsenal and move to Stamford Bridge instead.

The Italian, ultimately, delivered on his promise as Kante repeated his Leicester heroics in west London, adding the PFA Player of the Year Award to boot, following a stellar campaign.

N'Golo Kante played a key role in Chelsea's 2016/17 Premier League title-winning campaign
N’Golo Kante played a key role in Chelsea’s 2016/17 Premier League title-winning campaign (Picture: Getty)

Wenger, however, has already publicly disputed the suggestion that Kante’s move was influenced by the prospect of more silverware, and instead, cynically, intimated he followed the money.

Speaking back in 2018, Wenger said: ‘He is one of the most influential midfielders I’ve seen play football. He constantly makes simple decisions and never over-complicates it.

‘Have I looked to sign Kante? Yes. When he was in France and when he was at Leicester. I cannot explain everything but it is quite obvious when you look at where he has gone.

‘Was it the money? I do not want to talk about that. Transfers are transfers – you cannot explain absolutely everything.’

Kante has subsequently starred in the Chelsea sides managed by Muarizio Sarri, Frank Lampard and Thomas Tuchel, with the German particularly glad to be able to count on the services of the 30-year-old.

‘He needs to accept I cuddle him! I do this a lot because I need it for myself so he has to live with it,’ said Tuchel ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League final second leg against Real Madrid.

‘He’s a nice guy, a shy person and he likes to be quiet he likes to have his own quality time. He’s not loud but I see him smile a lot.

‘I see him interact with everyone but on his own terms and very shy, very polite I am super happy that players like him exist to express yourself by pure performance.

‘It’s a pleasure to watch and what he is doing with the mentality of a real helper and will always give everything to help everyone out on the pitch – it’s a fantastic combination.’

MORE : ‘The top guy’ – Thomas Tuchel lauds N’Golo Kante and says he ‘dreamed’ of managing Chelsea midfielder

MORE : Thomas Tuchel criticises one aspect of N’Golo Kante’s Man-of-the-Match display for Chelsea vs Real Madrid

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