May 19th 2022
Kante has been linked with a surprise move to Manchester United this summer, with Erik ten Hag keen on strengthening his options in central midfield ahead of next season.
But Tuchel believes Kante’s importance to Chelsea is equivalent to Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool but admits the 31-year-old’s injury issues this season have been a ‘concern’.
‘I think he is our key, key player but key players need to be on the pitch,’ Tuchel said on Thursday evening.
‘He plays only 40 per cent of the games and it’s maybe a miracle we arrive in third place because he is our Mo Salah, he is our Van Dijk, he is our De Bruyne. He is simply that player, he is our Neymar, our Kylian Mbappe.
‘He is the guy who makes the difference, if you only have him 40 per cent it’s a huge problem.
‘Given that percentage it’s a miracle of how consistent we produce results and puts everything in to perspective. I saw Liverpool last season with Van Dijk and they struggled heavily. You see the difference, N’Golo is our key player and he needs to be on the pitch.’
Asked if Chelsea can solve Kante’s physical issues, Tuchel replied: ‘It’s hard to live with because it’s important for him to be there and to have the rhythm.
‘I think he played okay but he can play so much better but when was his last game that he started? It was weeks ago. So he constantly starts getting rhythm and once he has rhythm he gets a little injury and he’s out again.
‘Last year in the last five games of the Champions League they handed him the [man of the match] trophy even before the match, it was so clear when he played. This guy who gets man of the match in every Champions League game is only here for 40-something per cent of games, this is huge for us.
‘We’ll do everything to solve it. I don’t blame him but it’s a concern.
‘We miss him a lot because he brings something that is unique in world football, he has that ability to lift everybody up and make the difference and this is the challenge for him and for us.’
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