After Karim Benzema, N'Golo Kanté is about to join Saudi club Al-Ittihad. This Friday, during the traditional press briefing at the beginning of the gathering of the France team, Didier Deschamps was asked about the probable departure in Saudi Pro Leagueof the 2018 world champion, aged 32, currently recovering after a groin injury contracted in May.
"You want to check if the information is good or not," the coach joked at first. I don't have an opinion, there are periods like that. There have been other countries before that have launched campaigns to highlight national championships. There was the United States, the Asian countries. The decision is up to the players. N'Golo Kanté is one of them. I don't have a crippling position on the fact that they can go play there and maintain themselves. I will make sure to follow them, even if it is a little more complicated. These are career choices at important times for players. »
Asked if he had discussed this subject with the small midfielder who had arrived at the end of his contract at Chelsea, Deschamps explained. "I talk to the players very regularly, either on my own initiative or on their part as well," he notes. If there is a decision to announce, it is up to them to do so, and I will not share with you the exchanges that can be had. I'm not here to advise the players, that's not my role. I can give them an opinion, but it will remain their decision, it is their career. Who will be affected? There may be others, maybe not. I'm not going to give you the answer about N'Golo Kanté. »
"Kante signed a binding agreement but not a definitive contract"
On Wednesday, an internal source at the Jeddah-based club told AFP that Kanté, who withdrew from the 2022 World Cup, had signed a 3-year contract with Al-Ittihad. According to several media, the salary offered to the winner of the Premier League in 2016 and 2017 (with Leicester then Chelsea) and the Champions League in 2021 (with Chelsea) could reach 100 million euros per year.
But for the moment no formalization has yet intervened. The leaders of Al-Ittihad want to have all the guarantees on the physical condition of the international to 53 selections before definitively validating his arrival. A version corroborated by relatives of the file.
"Kante signed a binding agreement but not a definitive contract. We continue to review the results of medical examinations. He has a long history of injuries and we want to be careful before signing a huge contract," an internal club source told AFP on Thursday. One thing is certain, if Kante leaves well in Saudi Arabia, he will probably be the end of his international career, a bit like Blaise Matuidi never again retained at the Blues after his departure to Inter Miami in the summer of 2020.
The Blues are gathered since Friday in Clairefontaine for the two meetings against Gibraltar and Greece (16-19 June) scheduled as part of the qualifications for Euro 2024 (14 June-14 July). As a reminder, the vice-champions of the world are first in their group after their victory against the Netherlands (4-0) and Ireland (0-1) last March.