N’Golo Kante is firing Chelsea to glory this season – because he is smiles better than anyone else.
Blues boss Antonio Conte has revealed the France international cannot wipe the grin from his face, even when he is putting in the hard yards during training.
And that attitude is rubbing off on his colleagues as they chase a Premier League and FA Cup double.
Facing Manchester United may be no laughing matter for the majority of teams in the country – but try telling that to Kante .
His manager said: “He’s been a great example. I was like him as a player.
“But he is stronger than I was. I scored more goals but in other aspects there is no contest.
“As a manager I’ve always appreciated this type of player – someone who has great generosity, an ability to work for the team.
“If we want to win it’s important to have this quality.
“But what I really like about him is that he always has a smile on his face. It’s fantastic, this.
“If I try to talk to him, he’s smiling. He’s always smiling.
“During training, he’s smiling. Always with a smile.
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“And that’s great for the staff, the other players, for the people who work at Chelsea, and for me.”
Conte stopped short of proposing Kante for the PFA Player of the Year award – saying only that if it went to one of his players it would mean that the club was almost certain to have won the title.
Claudio Ranieri, Kante’s former boss at Leicester City, restricted the midfielder’s training mileage during their time together at the King Power Stadium, but his new master has no such worries.
Conte added: “We are working on some aspects with N’Golo to improve him – such as his forward passing. He can improve that. We are hoping to make him a more complete player.
“But we are talking of a great player already. And I don’t want to stop him running.
“In my career, Giovanni Trapattoni tried to prevent me from doing that during training. He told me to go into the changing room because I had to run during games.
“I wasn’t happy about this. I wanted to stay with my team-mates. I would never tell N’Golo to go inside.
“He always puts in 100 per cent during matches and also 100 per cent during training.”
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic sidelined through suspension, attention will turn to midfielder Paul Pogba to make a difference for the visitors.
Conte managed the former Juventus man when he was in charge of the Turin giants.
He has no doubts that Pogba will prove to be worth every penny of his monster £89million transfer fee.
Conte added: “You are talking about a top, top player here. A top player in every situation.
“He is another one who shows his commitment in training. He has good technique, physically strong with great stamina.
“But we are working to find a solution for the whole team – not just for Pogba.
“It was the same against West Ham when we played against Andy Carroll and there were questions about whether we would stop him.
“For sure, we are studying Manchester United. We must make sure we pay Pogba attention when he arrives in the box.
“But we have to think about the entire Manchester United team. They are very strong.”