Ngolo Kante would be Manchester United's riskiest transfer move of the summer
Those pesky links to Ngolo Kante resurfaced over the weekend. The Guardian report United are considering a bid for the French midfielder.
A move for Kante is already dividing Manchester United supporters. On one hand, Kante is better than any option currently at the team’s disposal in midfield. He has had proven success at the highest level, and is still capable of making a big difference.
On the other hand, Kante is on the way down, at least in terms of age and physical reliability. The 31-year-old made only 21 of a possible 38 Premier League starts last season.
Having already bought Nemanja Matic too late from Chelsea, United are at risk of repeating the same move, which certainly didn’t benefit the club long-term, and many would regard it as a mistake.
Riskiest transfer move of the summer
Recent comments from Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel highlight why a move for Kante would be the riskiest transfer move of the summer.
Quoted by The Athletic, Tuchel talked up Kante’s importance, combined with the agonising reality that their dependence on a player who is not fit to start all of the games, has held them back.
He explained: “He is our key, key, key player but key, key, key players need to be on the pitch, and if he plays only 40 per cent of the games, it is maybe a miracle that we arrive in third place.
“He is our Mo Salah, our Virgil van Dijk, our Kevin De Bruyne. He is the guy who makes the difference and if you only have him 40 per cent, it is a huge problem.”
It isn’t easy to turn down the chance to sign a Salah, Van Dijk or De Bruyne. And despite all the glaring red flags over Kante’s fitness, this is the reason Manchester United are tempted.
United’s midfield is objectively a bottom half of the table midfield at present. Something needs to be done. Adding Kante to play half the time, would improve it considerably.
Factor in that a second midfield signing could join up too, along with James Garner and Donny van de Beek potentially making an impact, and there is reason to believe United could make the Kante move work, initially.
The signing would be a stop-gap, albeit a high quality one. United supporters would much rather see a long term solution found.
United have become too comfortable making stop-gap signings in recent years, see Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo, even Odion Ighalo, with no long term solution apparent up front.
The Erik ten Hag era is supposed to represent a new dawn, but Kante’s arrival would suggest the club are not prepared to change strategy overnight.
The fear is United will sign a Kante who plays even less regularly than at Chelsea, and his performance takes a dip, while Chelsea go ahead and sign a young talented defensive midfielder who will replace the Frenchman and play in every game. Can’t United simply do that instead?
Kante’s talent should make him a guarantee. He’s more than a defensive midfielder, he plays on the front foot, and is ideal for Erik ten Hag. But last season wasn’t a one-off. He has failed to reach 25 Premier League starts in the last three consecutive Premier League seasons.
The temptation of Kante is there. He could be useful alongside a Frenkie de Jong, and Tuchel’s comparison is a striking one, a player who can turn a team into a force single-handedly. If the floor is third place, as he provided to Chelsea this season, United fans would take that next year.
The option is still the riskiest transfer move of the summer, which will either be a masterstroke, or a major botch, as there is an opportunity cost to signing Kante – which is missing out on younger options like Edson Alvarez or Ibrahima Sangare, who could strengthen competitors, leaving United behind.