Thomas Tuchel described N’Golo Kante as “a big gift” after the France international played a starring role in Chelsea’s Champions League victory over Atletico Madrid.
Kante was instrumental in midfield as goals from Hakim Ziyech and Emerson earned Chelsea a 2-0 second-leg win at Stamford Bridge to go through to the quarter-finals 3-0 on aggregate, and Tuchel acknowledged the 29-year-old’s importance to his team.
Kante’s passing accuracy of 87.7 per cent and his tireless energy throughout the game were catalysts for a performance that made the leaders of LaLiga look out of their depth.
Tuchel hailed Kante’s contribution, telling reporters: “I never know the age of my players, I just judge from performance. You play with N’Golo Kante and you always have more.
“His intensity and volume are outstanding. It is a pleasure to be coach of him. He is a big gift for me, so humble, such a big helper on the pitch.
“He and Mateo Kovacic needed to step up today, we rely on them, and they took the weight on their shoulders and did a fantastic job.”
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) March 17, 2021
Chelsea are unbeaten in 14 games in all competitions, and 13 since Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard as head coach on January 26.
The Blues are competing on three fronts as they sit fourth in the Premier League, prepare for an FA Cup quarter-final against Sheffield United on Sunday, and brace themselves for the Champions League quarter-final draw on Friday.
Tuchel took a moment to reflect on a highly impressive start to his tenure, saying: “From the very first moment I felt like a part of a family, of a well-structured club.
“Everybody in this club thinks about football. I feel like a part of it. Part of the team.
“The input of the players and their approach to the game and to training is outstanding – it’s what the Premier League demands.
“From here we go and we take it step-by-step and we encourage them. We have so many good habits, and our attitude to training and games is amazing.
“Our job is to play our part, my job to play my part, this is what it is all about.”