Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante is closing in on a move away from Stamford Bridge after being offered £172 million ($217 million) to join Saudi club Al Ittihad.
Kante has been a mainstay in the Chelsea team over the past seven seasons, making 269 appearances for the Blues following a £32 million ($40 million) move from Leicester City in 2016. The Frenchman helped Leicester clinch a remarkable title and won back-to-back Premier Leagues after starring in Chelsea’s triumph the following season.
While that would be the last time Kante lifted the Premier League trophy, he got his hands on plenty more silverware while at Stamford Bridge, winning the Champions League, Europa League and FA Cup. Kante has been one of the best midfielders in England for almost a decade but he was unable to make as much of an impact last season, with injuries limiting him to just seven league appearances.
With his Chelsea contract set to expire this summer, Kante has been weighing up his options for several months amid interest from Barcelona and Arsenal. But Saudi side Al Ittihad have now made the World Cup winner an offer too good to refuse, preparing a two-year contract worth around £86 million ($107 million) a year.
The Saudi Arabian league is launching a major recruitment drive across Europe. They have lured Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema and have made offers for the likes of Lionel Messi, Serge Busquets, Paul Pogba, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. Many more are expected to be tempted by the millions on offer over the summer.
The Daily Mail say Kante is close to agreeing terms with Al Ittihad and is set to join the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema in the Saudi league. Chelsea were in talks with Kante over a contract extension but conversations stalled last month.
The Blues – soon to be managed by Mauricio Pochettino – are now focusing on signing a new midfielder and have expressed interest in West Ham captain Declan Rice and Brighton star Moises Caicedo.
Kante first joined the Blues in 2016, winning back-to-back Premier League titles with two different clubs in the process, having done so with Leicester in 2015-16.
Despite his stature within the game, it has been unclear as to whether he will be part of Pochettino’s plans next season. Having invested heavily in recent transfer windows – nearly £600 million ($747 million)msince Todd Boehly took over last summer – the club’s ranks are now bloated to the tune of around 30 players.
Kante suggested he would put pen to paper on a new deal with Chelsea after the 2022-23 season finished but a lucrative offer from Saudi has swayed his decision. Asked if he wanted to stay at Chelsea, Kante said last month:
“For sure. It’s an exciting project for the club. Unfortunately this season hasn’t been to Chelsea’s standards. But everyone wants to go in this way, the way of success and winning titles. I hope this club will again fight in this direction. Let’s see where I will be but I hope that this is a change for the club, that is most important.”
A delegation from the Middle East club was in London on Tuesday evening to go over the terms of the deal worth around £86 million a year. The 32-year old will be a free agent at the end of this month and has been offered a contract until 2025. Kante had been in talks over a new deal with Chelsea but negotiations stalled after March.
Former Tottenham, Paris Saint-Germain and Southampton manager Pochettino has signed a two-year deal with Chelsea, who finished just 12th in the Premier League last season.
As such, a number of current stars are anticipated to be leaving, including the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Edouard Mendy, Mateo Kovacic, Kalidou Koulibaly and Cesar Azpilicueta.
Should Kante leave, the Blues would be left with few players capable of playing in a deeper midfield role, with Kovacic linked with a switch to treble-chasers Manchester City.
- A Tell / Daily Mail / Metro report