Antonio Conte has expressed his delight following confirmation that Chelsea have completed a deal to sign N'Golo Kante. After weeks of fervent speculation, the combative French midfielder put pen to paper on a five-year contract at Stamford Bridge yesterday (16 July) in a deal believed to be worth in the region of £30m ($39.5m).
Kante proved a revelation in the Premier League last term, acclimatising very quickly indeed in the aftermath of a rather low-key switch from Ligue 1 outfit Caen to form an absolutely essential part of Leicester City's shock title triumph under Claudio Ranieri.
Working tirelessly and with endless determination, the ultra-fit 25-year-old struck up a hugely profitable partnership with Danny Drinkwater and underlined his importance by recording the most tackles and interceptions of any player in Europe's traditional top five biggest leagues. He made 40 appearances in total, even earning a PFA Player's Player of the Year nomination and later helping France reach the European Championship final on home soil.
It is such a commendably industrious approach that appears to have appealed most to former Juventus boss Conte, who arrives in west London after a two-year stint in charge of the Italian national team with the brief of restoring Chelsea to title contention following a fractious 2015/16 campaign that saw Jose Mourinho sacked for the second time and the club eventually slump to a disastrous 10th-place finish under Guus Hiddink. Instigating a swift return to the Champions League will be an absolute minimum requirement.
"I want to say Kante was a target and for this reason I'm very happy the club bought the player," the manager, who was officially unveiled in his new role on Thursday, less than two weeks after Italy's quarter-final defeat to Germany at Euro 2016, told Chelsea's official website. "He's a good player. He has good technique, fantastic stamina and I like this type of player. If you want to win a team needs this type of player – Kante, [Nemanja] Matic and [John Obi] Mikel – that work hard for the team.
"We identified him, me and the club together, and I think Kante can give a lot to Chelsea, to enforce a zone which is very important if we want to play with two central midfielders. He showed last season he's able to play with another midfielder. I think with this player we've reinforced the squad."
Kante follows Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi as the second signing of Conte's early reign and will join his new teammates on their week-long training camp in Austria shortly. Chelsea began their latest pre-season campaign with a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Rapid Vienna at the Allianz Stadion yesterday and now move on to Velden before facing RZ Pellets on Wednesday.
The Blues, who will be expected to further strengthen their squad before the transfer deadline, are then scheduled to fly to the US for International Champions Cup fixtures against Liverpool, Real Madrid and AC Milan. They open the new top-flight season with a home London derby clash against West Ham on 15 August.