Claudio Ranieri: N'Golo Kante was 'born for football', but is different to Chelsea legend Claude Makelele

James Benge, Tom Doyle
Kante has been Chelsea's star player this season: Getty Images

Claudio Ranieri has praised N'Golo Kante as a man "born for football" as the midfielder drives Chelsea towards the Premier League title.

Kante starred for Ranieri's Leicester City last season as the Foxes won the title despite starting the campaign as 5,000/1 outsiders.

The France international's all-action displays in central midfield earned him a £32million move to Chelsea last summer, and the 26-year-old has become a key player for Antonio Conte.

Kante's performances have made him the clear favourite to be crowned PFA Player of the Year as he closes in on a second Premier League title in as many years, though Ranieri - who was sacked by Leicester earlier this season - hailed the Stamford Bridge star after starting life in England on the Leicester wing.

Speaking about signing Kante in summer 2015, Ranieri told Sky Sports: "We were looking at another international player to put there.

"We had lost [Esteban] Cambiasso… I tried to keep him but he wanted to leave. We wanted an international but he didn’t choose Leicester.

Then at the end we had Kante and [Jordy] Clasie. I said, OK, take Kante, I like Kante.

"I watch him two, three times. Kante slowly, slowly started. I put him on the left wing early on because during the training session I thought I had to get him in somewhere.

"How can I not put him in the team? He supported everybody. He and Drinkwater made a very big difference."

Kante has drawn favourable comparisons to Chelsea legend Claude Makelele due to his control of defensive midfield, but Ranieri sees the former as a stronger attacking presence for the Blues.

"He’s no Makelele," he continued. "Makelele’s less mobile, more organised. Kante is about getting the ball and counter-attacking.

"This man is very serious. He’s born for football. If you give him something he’ll make the maximum.

"Always laughing. Never complaining. If he speak behind me I don’t understand him because I’d never recognise his voice."

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