Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ll know that there’s this guy by the name of N’Golo Kante who’s pretty good at the whole ‘football’ thing.
The Frenchman has defied all logic with his indefatigable play style for a few years now but took things to a new level in last season’s Champions League, in which he picked up the man of the match award in both legs of the semi-final and the final.
Kante is a one-of-a-kind monster, but over in France, there’s someone doing their utmost to challenge his throne. Enter Aurelien Tchouameni.
A defensive-minded do-it-all in the mould of Kante, Tchouameni has just completed a stunning season with Monaco which saw him pick up the award for Ligue 1’s best young player ahead of some big names, including Rennes’ Eduardo Camavinga.
The tall 21-year-old proved to be the complete package last season. On the defensive end, he ranked second in Ligue 1 for most tackles, fourth for interceptions and second for successful pressures. Going forward, he finished 12th for progressive passes, 16th in carries and 26th in completed passes.
What we saw from Tchouameni was a young player who prides himself on defending, but is just as prepared to go forward when the opportunity arises. It’s not a polished play style, but it’s about as close to Kante as you’ll find these days.
He’s athletic with relentless stamina and can combine elite defensive awareness with dangerous movement in attack, and he does all that in a body which is eight inches taller than Kante’s.
Now 30 and still nursing a sketchy injury record, Chelsea must prioritise somebody who can fill in for (and ultimately replace) Kante without damaging the rest of the team. Tchouameni is one of very few players on the planet who could do that.
Chelsea are aware of Tchouameni, and according to The Athletic, they are giving ‘serious consideration’ to launching a bid for the Monaco starlet, whose case is strengthened by the fact he would cost close to £70m less than another top target, West Ham‘s Declan Rice.
There’s no denying that what Rice has been doing over the past few seasons is special, and his performances with England this summer showed exactly why scouts rate him so highly, but there are concerns over how he would fit into this current Chelsea side.
More of an anchor man, Rice is comfortable sitting deep, recovering the ball and kick-starting attacks. It’s a similar role to that of Jorginho, who has been so good since Thomas Tuchel joined Chelsea that his name is being thrown around in the Ballon d’Or conversation.
Jorginho’s not going to be benched for Rice right now, and playing the two together would be too defensive. There just isn’t an obvious spot for the West Ham man, especially if it’s going to cost £100m to get him.
Somewhere down the line, if Rice becomes cheaper, then Chelsea should absolutely go for him. They could do with an anchor in the Nemanja Matic mould – a need which will only grow as Jorginho ages – and Rice would fit the bill perfectly, but £100m is too much right now.
The need for Tchouameni is greater, and when he’s £70m cheaper, it seems like a no-brainer for Chelsea.
Tchouameni is there for the taking for Chelsea, who can nurture him and help him hit Kante-esque heights. The £30m they paid for Kante has long been seen as one of the biggest bargains in modern memory, and a similar outlay on Tchouameni would be just as impactful.