N’Golo Kante spent his childhood cleaning the streets of Paris. Now, he’s a 1x World Cup, 2x Premier League, and 1x Champions League winner. But he’s still criminally overlooked. This is his inspirational story.
Born to Malian immigrants in Paris, Kante grew up walking the city’s streets in search of valuable trash to sell. He used the money to help support his family. To this day, N’Golo credits his childhood for his incredible work ethic.
In 1998, France hosted the World Cup. 8-year-old Kante saw a French team full of African descendants - Thierry Henry & Zinedine Zidane - win the World Cup. Inspired by this, N’Golo took up soccer.
Kante joined JS Suresnes, a small academy in the suburbs of Paris. He earned the nickname “Small but Mighty.” But his tiny frame (he’s only 5’6” today!) made big clubs nervous despite his obvious talent.
Larger French clubs rejected him:
At 19, very late for a soccer player, N’Golo hadn’t played professionally. Then Boulogne called...
Boulogne, a French Ligue 3 squad, took a chance on him. He impressed so much that Caen, a Ligue 2 team, signed him the next season. Kante led Caen to promotion to Ligue 1. Suddenly, he was playing giants like PSG and Lyon.
In 2015, N’Golo moved to Leicester City. The club was given 5000/1 odds to win the Premier League - but they did it. Kante was named to the Premier League Team of the Year. He recorded 31 more tackles and 15 more interceptions than any other player.
The next year, Chelsea, one of the most famous clubs in Europe, came calling. Again, Kante wins the Premier League. He not only makes the Team of the Year, but also wins Player of the Year. His star is rising, and quickly.
Sadly, weeks before the 2018 World Cup, N’Golo’s brother died of a heart attack. A private guy, Kante hasn’t talked about it publicly.
Even so, N’Golo started all 7 World Cup games for France, including the 4-2 win over Croatia to clinch the tourney. 20 years after his idols, he became a World Cup champion.
In 2021, N’Golo led Chelsea to the Champions League title and earned the following titles:
- Semifinal Man of the Match
- Finals Man of the Match
A kid who couldn’t find a professional team until 19 is now one of the world’s best soccer players.
My favorite part? These awesome stories:
- Jamie Vardy convinced him to buy a car - Kante got a used Mini Cooper
- He was too shy to hold the World Cup trophy until teammates made him
- He refused to avoid taxes, but cheated to beat Kylian Mbappe in Uno
It's hard not to like him - just check out this video:
It’s incredible to see a happy, humble guy succeed at the highest level of sport. Because of his position as a defensive midfielder and unsexy style of play, he’s vastly underrated. I’d guess he prefers it this way.