N’Golo Kante believes Ballon d’Or speculation is way ahead of schedule as he attempts to add Euro 2020 glory to his Champions League success.
After an outstanding performance against Manchester City helped Chelsea become European club champions, Kante wants to make it a double by guiding France to success over the coming month.
The dynamic midfielder was tipped for the highest individual honour in football after Chelsea’s 1-0 win over City in Porto, and Les Bleus team-mate Paul Pogba has thrown his support behind the growing clamour.
But Kante said he doesn’t “pay attention” to praise of his displays, saying on Sunday: “What I hear can be touching, but I try to do what I have always done: be natural and give my best on the pitch. If it can give people pleasure, so much the better.”
Asked about the prospect of winning the Ballon d’Or, Kante said: “It’s a bit too soon to speak about that now. We’re just getting to halfway through the year, there are six months to go, lots of competitions to play and it doesn’t help to say that I deserve it now.
“Some years ago, I was in the top 10, that was the first time and it made me happy. To win it, that would be another story.”
It was December 2017 when Kante cracked the top 10, finishing eighth in the vote.
“It’s a great personal reward,” Kante said of the prize. “I see it like the reward for an accomplished season by a player, but it’s not an objective I work towards. Those who have won it are the players who have achieved the great things during their career.”
Kante’s France and Chelsea team-mate Olivier Giroud has little doubt the 30-year-old would be a worthy winner, describing him as “clearly a contender”.
Speaking in a France news conference on Sunday, Giroud said: “We’ll start talking to him about the Ballon d’Or if we win the Euros.
“He is stressed and tense when we talk to him about it! But it flatters him of course, even if he doesn’t like compliments too much and prefers to keep a low profile. He deserves what happens to him.”
Should Kante go on to land the award, which is handed out annually by France Football magazine, he would be the first Frenchman to do so since Zinedine Zidane.
Zidane took the honour in 1998, having inspired hosts France to win the World Cup for the first time.