Gianfranco Zola shared how N’Golo Kante surprised him during his time as an assistant manager for Chelsea.
The Chelsea legend returned to the club as Maurizio Sarri’s No.2 for a season in 2018/2019.
When he arrived, Sarri introduced a few changes to the team, including abandoning Antonio Conte’s 3-4-3 system for his 4-3-3.
The main talking point at the time was arguably Kante’s new position as a No.8 in the midfield three.
Sarri unsurprisingly wanted to keep Jorginho, whom he brought from Napoli, at the base of his midfield, but Kante had never really played in an advanced midfield role before.
Zola explained the decision as he revealed what really impressed him about the 30-year-old midfielder.
“His natural position is not to sit and be a holding midfielder,” Zola told beIN SPORTS about Kante.
“His natural [tendency] is to run forward and backwards — and we felt in that position he was the best.
“At Leicester City, he always played with [Danny] Drinkwater. The holding midfielder was actually Drinkwater, while he [Kante] always ran forward.
“He makes these runs at high speed and comes back quicker than he’s going forward — it’s unbelievable. I’d never seen anything like that.”
Perhaps thanks to the decision, Kante has become even more versatile as a player than he used to be.
The France international has returned to his favourite role in a midfield two under Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea, but he has clearly been more comfortable when joining the attack.
With France, on the other hand, Kante often plays at the base of the midfield three, behind Paul Pogba and Adrien Rabiot.
He certainly does not seem to have any problem with having to sit back in a deeper role as he showcased in the 1-0 win over Germany on Tuesday.