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Champions League

‘He is our Mo Salah, he is our Kylian Mbappe’ – Thomas Tuchel praises N’Golo Kante but wants improved fitness

Thomas Tuchel has said Chelsea need to find a way of getting N’Golo Kante fit, as he said the midfielder is as important to the Blues as Mo Salah is to Liverpool and Kylian Mbappe to Paris Saint-Germain.

Kante has been a huge performer for Chelsea for years, but his 2021/22 campaign has been badly hit by injuries.

At 31, Kante’s best days may be behind him but he is still a sensational performer when fit.

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Fitness would appear to be a concern for Tuchel, who feels it is imperative Kante – who started the 1-1 draw with Leicester on Thursday – can find a way of staying fit.

“I think he is our key, key player but key, key players have to be on the pitch and he only plays 40% of games,” Tuchel said. “He is our Mo Salah, (Virgil) van Dijk. He is our Kylian Mbappe.”

Kante played a huge part in Chelsea’s run to the Champions League title last season, and Tuchel wants his medical staff to find a way of getting him back to that level.

“Last year, I think in the last five matches of the Champions League they handed him the trophy,” Tuchel said. “I think they handed it to him even before the match.

“This is huge for us to solve it. I don’t play him but it’s a fact we miss him a lot and he brings something unique in world football. He can lift everybody up and make the difference.”

Kante’s future has been a topic of debate, as he has been linked with a move to Manchester United.

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The France international has a little over a year to run on his contract, and Chelsea are currently prevented from thrashing out new deals. That would change once the takeover by Todd Boehly is completed.

It appears Tuchel would be in favour of a new deal for Kante, especially if he can get back to full fitness.

“He can make the difference but he can only make the difference on the pitch and at the top level, this is our target for him,” Tuchel said. “He is one of the very best midfielders in the world.

“Because he is not in the spotlight, he is even more important to the team. He has the mentality of a water carrier and this makes the difference. Big teams need this. It’s why everyone loves to play with him.”

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