The Best Premier League Transfers Ever: N’Golo Kante to Leicester City (2015/16)

Robin Bairner
Robin Bairner
  • Updated: 19 May 2021 15:43 BST
  • 5 min read
The Best Premier League Transfers Ever: N’Golo Kante to Leicester City (2015/16)

Premier League history changed in the summer of 2015 when Marseille’s financial difficulties meant that they left the door open for the little known N’Golo Kante to trade Caen for Leicester.

A deal was completed for just £5.6 million (€8m) and went largely unheralded before the beginning of the most surprising season in Premier League history.

Less than a year after completing his switch to Leicester, Kante had not only graduated to being a Premier League champion, he was also considered one of the leading defensive midfielders in the game.

This article is part of FootballTransfers’ greatest-ever Premier League deals. We have selected just one standout transfer from every season of the Premier League, including two honourable mentions. This list will then be gathered to provide a definitive list of the best pieces of business in the Premier League era.

N’Golo Kante, Caen to Leicester City, £5.6m

By the time that Leicester swooped to sign N’Golo Kante from French second-tier outfit Caen, the midfielder, who was already 24, had passed by the radars of Europe’s biggest sides.

Marseille had tried to complete a deal for the humble, hard-working midfielder during the same summer, yet in the midst of their own financial issues, they were unable to match the modest fee that Leicester were prepared to offer.

This twist of fate proved critical in Kante’s future: had Marseille been able to afford to sign him, the midfielder would surely have moved south instead of north.

He was acknowledged in France as a decent player, but despite finishing the 2014/15 Ligue 2 season averaging 4.8 tackles per match – the most in the division – his explosion onto the world scene was not forecast by those outside of Caen, where he was a hero.

Although he was overlooked for major individual honours beyond a place in the PFA Team of the Year as Leicester marched unexpectedly to the Premier League, his role in their title push was a major one.

This was reflected in the dramatic increase of his transfer fee a year on when he moved to Chelsea for £32m.

Kante’s incredible defensive numbers

Kante’s volume of play quickly became legendary in England. “When I first saw him I thought: ‘Is there two of him?’” Leicester scout Steve Walsh admitted to ESPN.

By the time Leicester were lifting the Premier League title, it was said they were playing with three players in the heart of their midfield: Danny Drinkwater flanked by two Kantes.

The figures he posted in that season for Leicester were remarkable. He completed 175 tackles over the course of the campaign – over 20% more than any other player in the division – and 157 interceptions – a league-leading figure by 10%.

The Best Premier League Transfers Ever: N’Golo Kante to Leicester City (2015/16)

The Best Premier League Transfers Ever: N’Golo Kante to Leicester City (2015/16)

His departure the following summer coincided with a slump of form from the Foxes that resulted in manager Claudio Ranieri being replaced and the club tumbling to a lowly 12th. They conceded 63 goals – nearly twice as many as they had leaked in the previous campaign.

If Leicester’s form took a downturn, Kante remained as strong as ever and played a critical role as Chelsea won the league in his first campaign. “He’s the best player in the world,” Chelsea legend Frank Lampard, now Kante’s manager, exclaimed at the time.

Now 29, he remains the benchmark in his role – and it was his move to Leicester that was the catalyst for it all.

(Premier League statistics)

Runner-Up: Kevin De Bruyne, Wolfsburg to Manchester City, £55m

Kevin De Bruyne had Premier League experience before he moved to Manchester City from Wolfsburg, but it was not a good one. As a promising youngster with Chelsea, he managed only three fleeting appearances before departing on loan to Werder Bremen then permanently to their Bundesliga rivals Wolfsburg.

His return to England could scarcely have been any more contrasting. His absences from the City side have only been because of injuries, and when he has taken to the field, he has established himself as one of the classiest players in the division.

While he has scored 38 top-flight goals, it is because his ability to create goals that has been legendary. Although Liverpool won the 2019/20 title, De Bruyne was named the Player of the Season and created a record-equalling 20 goals.

Runner-Up: Son Heung-Min, Bayer Leverkusen to Tottenham, £22m

While Harry Kane has hogged the headlines at Tottenham thanks to his prolific goal-scoring exploits, alongside him Son Heung-Min has quietly excelled for the North London club.

He arrived at Tottenham in 2015 and after a somewhat discreet first season has been a consistently fine performance on the wing. Indeed, he has hit double figures in goals over the course of the last five seasons and is presently on course to smash his personal best of 14.

Immensely versatile, he possesses a bundle of attributes that make him an outstanding team player. Given his explosive pace, smart positional sense and clever movement, it is little wonder he is presently excelling more than ever in Jose Mourinh’s counterattacking style.

For a fee of £22 million, he has proven a bargain.