N’Golo Kante shared with Chelsea magazine the philosophy that saw him go from the lower leagues to being a Premier League champion and international footballer in just four years.
It took the French midfielder a long time to convince a professional club he was good enough to star on the big stage, playing his youth football with a local team in a suburb of Paris, but bounced back from rejection to work his way up through the football pyramid the hard way.
‘When I was young in my club in Suresnes, I tried a lot of times to go in an academy of a professional club, but always I missed the chance. They said they already had some players like me, or they didn’t like me, so I didn’t go,’ explained Kante, who is living proof that you should never give up on your dreams.
‘I stayed in Suresnes until I was 19, when I went to Bolougne. I did one year in their second team, in the sixth division. We went up to the fifth division and after that I went to the first team, which was professional in the third division.’
From there he moved to Caen (pictured above) and helped them earn promotion to the top flight, catching the attention of Leicester City’s scouts in the process, and the rest is history. Less than a year after arriving in England he had a Premier League winner’s medal around his neck and was returning to France, this time to represent his country at Euro 2016.
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One of the secrets to his rise was never getting ahead of himself. Although he obviously dreamed of reaching the top of the game in the future, his focus always stayed on the here and now.
‘I didn’t think about it. When I was in the lower divisions I just tried to do my best for the team, to achieve our goal to be promoted. Then, step by step, it happened.’
Kante has also found himself repeatedly compared to other footballers who have played in a similar position, but insists it is important to just concentrate on being the best player you can be, and not try to copy anyone else’s game or feel you have to replace someone from the team’s past.
‘I don’t pretend to be like Ramires or Claude Makelele. Me, I just go my way in football and try to do my best. I know I can be similar to another player, but it’s not pressure or something like that. I just do it my way, try to improve and try to do my best.’
It’s also fair to say his rise has taken a plenty of determination to keep improving, so it is no surprise that he isn’t satisfied with what he has achieved just yet.
‘I know it’s a good achievement, but I hope to keep going now.’