The speculation over N’Golo Kante’s future has apparently been put to bed – in the final paragraph of an injury update story on Chelsea’s website.
Frank Lampard has had to plan without the World Cup winner for most of this season because of a succession of problems.
Most of the piece is about getting Kante, and other players such as Ruben Loftus-Cheek, into peak condition whenever football returns.
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But down the bottom is a statement from the head coach which categorically shows he is part of the long-term future at Stamford Bridge.
That should put an end to tittle tattle linking the France midfielder, widely recognised as the current squad’s only world-class player, with a move away in the next transfer window.
Real Madrid had been regularly mentioned in speculation over recent months but Kante, who is under contract until the summer of 2023, is a long-term key figure for Lampard’s side.
“We obviously need N’Golo Kante in our team, one of the best players in the world,” the head coach said at the end of the injury update.
“I knew that before becoming manager of Chelsea, I know that from working with him. We unfortunately haven’t been able to have him much this year, but going forward we want him fit and ready to go.”
As for Kante’s fitness, the 29-year-old is expected to be ready to return once football restarts. He carried a hamstring issue into pre-season after playing through the pain in the Europa League final and has had ankle and abductor issues since.
“We had quite a few injuries going into the period when we finished playing,” Lampard said. “N’Golo Kante is a great example. Obviously he has played four or five incredible seasons in terms of his success as an individual. He has been used, quite rightly so, by his managers a lot.
“This season he has played about 40 per cent of our games. Even then it’s been difficult for him….