Has any player ever deserved a World Cup as much as N’Golo Kante?
Even the most bitterly rose-tinted of Spurs or Arsenal fans would have to admit a little soft spot for a shy, retiring bloke who has just lived everyone’s childhood dream in posing for photos with the World Cup that he’s just won for his country.
In the past six summers, N’Golo has gone from Ligue 3 to Ligue 1, to being whisked off by the beady-eyed Steve Walsh to Leicester, to playing an integral role in back-to-back Premier League-winning sides and, now, becoming the backbone of France’s World Cup victory in Russia.
It’s one of the maddest come ups of all time and a downright inspirational story for the next wave of Kantes currently running around a riotous Paris celebrating with the same energy as their hero plays with week-in, week-out.
But what makes Kante all the more loveable is how he celebrated the victory.
During France's trophy celebrations, Steven N'Zonzi told the players to let N'Golo Kanté hold the World Cup trophy because he was too shy to ask & didn't want to impose on anyone. pic.twitter.com/USHuDu8I1Y
— Transfer News Live (@TransfersLlVE) July 16, 2018
While Virgil Abloh and Skepta saluted golden boy Kylian Mbappe’s headline-grabbing heroics, Graeme Souness’ head wobbled then rolled along the BeIn Sports studio floor as Paul Pogba dabbed with the World Cup in his hand, and professional cheerleader Benjamin Mendy slid about the pitch in full kit despite barely getting off his arse all summer, the irrepressible N’Golo bashfully shied away from the cameras and attention his teammates were relishing in.
Everyone knows he didn’t have the best of finals – with it emerging that he soldiered on despite having a stomach bug – but for the previous six games of France’s World Cup run, Kante’s performances were not of this planet.
As the old saying goes, “Water covers 71% of the Earth, N’Golo Kante covers the rest”, and in the lead up to the final, he made light work of pocketing the likes of KDB and Messi with the kind of ease that predecessors such as Makelélé and Viera would be proud of.
In a French team rich of egos and talent, Kante has dutifully gone about his work with the biggest of grins on his face. While allowing Pogba and the rest to bomb forward with flair, Kante – irrepressible yet in the shadows – has applied himself with the sort of graft that the lads on Love Island this summer could only dream of emulating. He’s not only won the hearts of his teammates and his countries’ fans, but he’s now got the rest of the world wrapped around his little finger.
— Akrem AM (@akabmo) July 16, 2018
Being summoned over by Steven Nzonzi to have his shine for the cameras after being too shy to celebrate with the trophy provided the most accurate reflection of Kante as a player and human being.
If he’d have had it his way, Kante would have been nowehere to be seen in the aftermath of victory. But when you share a dressing room with Presnel Kimpembe on Beats Pill duty, there’s no way you’re going to escape the limelight.
Looking at the French players going to celebrate with Kante in the locker room is so wholesome just look at his smile omg 😍 pic.twitter.com/DbMk6JeTSb
— ⌬ Christian Candler 🧠 (@thecandIer) July 15, 2018
When images of each member of the France squad were beamed on to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the loudest cheers were not only reserved for future Ballon d’Or winner Kylian Mbappé, but also for N’Golo Kante – the down-to-earth bloke who in six summers has gone from complete obscurity to champion of the world.
In the dressing room and on the team bus back to the hotel after the game, 22 French players all sang on the coach home in unison to gas up one of this generation’s greatest midfielders…while he blushed and told them to chill with a timid grin.
Once he lands back to a hero’s welcome in Paris and reports back to London, he’ll drive off in his beaten-up Mini Cooper from the car park and head home to add his World Cup medal to his ever-glistening mantelpiece.
We see you shining N’Golo – and there’s no-one that can begrudge you for it.