Cesar Azpilicueta has hailed N’Golo Kante as the world’s best midfielder after the France star powered Chelsea to Champions League glory.
Chelsea captain Azpilicueta paid tribute to “humble” Kante, who constantly eschews praise but cannot avoid the limelight with his peerless performances.
Man of the match Kante dominated from first to last in Porto as Kai Havertz’s well-worked goal sunk Manchester City 1-0 on Saturday night.
Chelsea paid £32million to prise Kante away from Leicester City in 2016, and now the 30-year-old has added the Champions League title to his World Cup and two Premier League winners’ medals.
Asked if he could name a better midfielder in the world than Kante, Azpilicueta replied: “A straightforward answer to that question – no.
“He does everything, he brings so much energy.
“The way he drives the ball forward, he covers so much ground.
“For him as well after winning the World Cup, winning the Champions League, he’s so humble as a person, and I’m just so happy for him.
“He’s a massive part of this team so I’m so happy to have him next to me.”
Kante’s relentless, immaculate performance proved the exemplary midfield showing, boasting every element of a central role.
Manchester City simply had no answers to the low-key Frenchman, who as recently as 2013 was plying his trade in his home country’s lower leagues.
Pep Guardiola’s major tactical gamble to set up his midfield with no defensive pivot backfired spectacularly, as the blameless Ilkay Gundogan was left out of his depth and with too many fires to fight.
Kante and Jorginho entirely dominated in Thomas Tuchel’s “double six” defensive midfield structure, as Chelsea stormed to victory at the Estadio do Dragao.
Mason Mount’s inch-perfect angled ball laid on Havertz’s stunning goal, with the Germany forward picking the ideal time to break his Champions League duck.
City started a match without Fernandinho or Rodri for just the second time all season in Guardiola’s major surprise selection, leaving the ex-Barcelona boss without a Champions League triumph since 2011.
Asked if he was surprised by Guardiola’s starting XI, Blues boss Tuchel replied: “We were a bit, I expected Fernandinho in the line-up to start.
“He chose a very offensive line-up, very technical line-up, and it was very hard to steal and recover the balls.
“Everything else we more or less expected, we expected that they want to pin us on the side, so it was very important that we step out with Toni and Azpi constantly to support midfield.
“And also to stay in a block in the front five to avoid diagonal switch of play.
“It was a strong bond, we were absolutely sure we needed to play with a strong bond, genuine belief and this is what we did.”