N'Golo Kante is a man reborn at Euro 2024 after dumping Chelsea for Saudi

Tom Weber
Tom Weber
  • Updated: 17 Jun 2024 16:39 CDT
  • 4 min read
N'Golo Kante, France, Al-Ittihad, 2023/24

N'Golo Kante looked like a man reborn against Austria.

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Handed a surprise call-up for Euro 2024 by France coach Didier Deschamps, the midfielder looks like he hasn't lost a step despite spending the past year in Saudi Arabia.

Questions were asked when the 33-year-old left Chelsea last summer to join reigning Saudi Pro League champions Al-Ittihad. A much-loved personality, Kante was accused of following the money after looking as though age had begun to catch up with him.

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Shouts that Kante was 'finished' only grew louder when, despite some good performances from the Frenchman, Al-Ittihad slumped to an embarrassing fifth-place finish in the Pro League, ending up below Al-Taawoun, who are not backed by the might of Public Investment Fund unlike Ittihad and the rest of the Kingdom's big four.

Therefore, it came as a massive shock when Kante made France's Euro 2024 squad, but the decision to call him up has paid off. The midfielder looked like his peak Leicester City and Chelsea self against dark horses Austria and he was rightfully showered with praise by ITV's pundits after the game.

Kante enjoying himself

Asked about the positives of Kante moving to Saudi Arabia, Arsenal legend Ian Wright quipped: "He’ll retire very, very comfortably!" To which Roy Keane responded: "Some players get a new lease of life. It’s a new challenge for him."

After Laura Woods drew attention to the fact that Kante "really struggled with injuries before that" and that the Saudi Pro League is "not as aggressive and physical," Wright appeared to disagree.

"When you play to that level [at Euro 2024], you must be doing something," Wright insisted. "If you’re playing in a league where the standard’s not as good, how’s he getting to that level?"

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"He’s surrounded by much better players, that’s the key," Keane concluded. "Surround yourself by top players. When he was breaking forwards, there were players covering for him. That’s the key."

Gary Neville then chimed in: "There was a couple of years ago when he looked like he was finished. It looks like he’s got a second lease on life. Obviously, he’s playing in a great team but...sometimes when you get to 30, 31, you think you’re near the end of your career and you get a little bit stale."

"All of a sudden, you start to enjoy your career a little bit more...And you get £86m a year! He’s enjoying himself all of a sudden."

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