N’Golo Kante plays 60 minutes for Chelsea in a behind closed doors friendly as he steps up recovery from a hamstring injury that has kept him out since August – and Mason Mount can’t hide his delight at his team-mate’s return!
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N’Golo Kante played for the first time in seven months on Friday as took a big step towards his eagerly-awaited Chelsea return in a behind-closed-doors friendly.
Kante played an hour of a 3-0 win against Charlton, his first match since suffering a serious hamstring injury in Chelsea’s second game of the season against Tottenham in August.
After his lengthy spell on the sidelines, which also ruled him out of France’s World Cup campaign, Kante returned to training earlier this month.
He was deemed fit enough to be back involved in a matchday squad for the first time in Saturday’s draw against Everton when he was an unused substitute.
And he was not short of supporters on the touchline, with team-mates Mason Mount and Thiago Silva in attendance on Friday.
N’Golo Kante played 60 minutes in a behind-closed-doors friendly for Chelsea on Friday
The Blues ran out 3-0 victors against League One outfit – and London rivals – Charlton Athletic
Mason Mount and Thiago Silva, who are both injured, were in attendance to show their support
The England international wore a shirt with Kante’s name and No 7 on in support of his Chelsea team-mate.
Kante first sustained the problem in the Blues’ 2-2 draw at home to Tottenham, only to reaggravate it when he resumed training five weeks later.
Kante linked back up with the Chelsea squad in early March as a part of the ‘return to play’ process following his hamstring injury.
However, his involvement on Friday will provide the Chelsea fans with a boost ahead of their remaining games in the 2022-2023 campaign.
Kante was part of the Chelsea development squad that beat Charlton Athletic 3-0, with goals coming from Dion Rankine, Silko Thomas and Malik Mothersille.
The 31-year-old’s absence at the heart of the Blues’ midfield has been obvious, with Graham Potter’s side missing the control and security that Kante’s defensive work often brings them.
The arrival of Enzo Fernandez on a British-record £107million fee in January has managed to strengthen Chelsea’s midfield line.
The French midfielder has been out of action since a 2-2 draw with Tottenham in August
Kante (second left) has returned to training after not playing since August due to a hamstring injury
But Kante’s importance to the club is such that Potter will be keen to reintroduce him as soon as possible.
However the ex-Brighton boss stressed that it would not be a straight-forward road to recovery for Kante earlier in March.
‘It’s a complex one with [Kante] because he has had a long time out,’ Potter said at his pre-match press conference before the Blues’ Champions League aggregate win over Borussia Dortmund.
‘It’ll be a case of how we get him back up to speed to play Premier League or Champions League football. He won’t be able to go back in for 90 minutes any time soon but the fact he is with us is exciting.’
Since he first sustained the injury in an eventful clash with Spurs, Thomas Tuchel has lost his job and the Blues spent more than £300m in the January transfer window, and he will return to a side currently in 10th.
Graham Potter insisted that building N’Golo Kante’s match fitness up will be a ‘complex’ process
Kante’s current deal at Stamford Bridge is up at the end of the season, but there has been work behind the scenes to nail him down until 2026, and although talks have been positive there has been no announcement yet.
The Blues are next in action against Unai emery’s resurgent Aston Villa on April 1, following the international break.
Kante was unable to join up with Didier Deschamps and his French squad as a result of his injury, which also saw him ruled out of the squad for the Qatar World Cup.
He is widely regarded as among the leading midfielders in the world when fit, with his prodigious work-rate and defensive work hailed above all else.
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