Forget Havertz and Werner – £32m for Kante is the best money Chelsea have ever spent
Kai Havertz may have gone some way to justifying his status as the 2021 Champions League final’s most expensive player on display by netting the only goal of the game as Chelsea defeated Manchester City 1-0 in Porto, but the performance of N’Golo Kante once again proved that they may never have spent a better £32 million.
Havertz arrived from Bayer Leverkusen last summer for the princely fee of £70 million. He was part of an incredible summer investment made by the Blues, which saw them spend more money than any other club in world football in 2020.
The secret to their Champions League victory, though, lay in a deal conducted in 2016, when they captured Kante from Leicester for £32m.
Chelsea invested nearly a quarter of a billion pounds in their squad over the last 18 months, but while Havertz bagged the only goal of the game and produced a strong display in Porto, the other new additions did not sparkle similarly. Timo Werner fluffed early chances, Edouard Mendy went largely untested in goal and Thiago Silva was withdrawn injured in the first half.
Ben Chilwell was otherwise the pick of the new faces, turning in a strong performance down the left.
Nevertheless, it was the quiet and unassuming Kante who was their lynchpin.
Once they were ahead, Chelsea’s primary aim in the match was to shutdown Man City and prevent them from finding any spaces for the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling to exploit. The Belgium star, in particular, was the danger man, yet Kante dominated the space in front of his defence, preventing the playmaker from getting any kind of grasp upon the match.
By full-time, Kante had won all three of his tackles, was not dribbled by on a single occasion and won a game-high 73% of his duels. Moreover, he was the only Chelsea player who won possession on more occasions that he lost it.
Kante’s night in numbers
|Aerial duels won||57.1|
In Thomas Tuchel’s system, which demanded an emphasis on defensive organisation, Kante was the key.
But it was not just in the final that the 30-year-old shone. In both legs of the semi-final against Real Madrid, he was outstanding.
Of course, this should come as little surprise by now. He may be a late bloomer, but Kante was a Premier League and World Cup winner – and a rare defensively orientated player to win major individual prize, sweeping the 2016-17 Premier League awards. Now he has a Champions League medal to add to his collection.
In the aftermath of Chelsea’s second Champions League success, much is likely to be made of Havertz going some way to justifying his big summer fee and Werner doing no more to justify his, but spare a thought for Kante, who may just be the best value signing the Blues have ever made.