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The case for Kante as key component to Leicester City’s fairytale run

Leicester City v Liverpool - Premier League

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 02: Ngolo Kante of Leicester City and Roberto Firmino of Liverpool compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Liverpool at The King Power Stadium on February 2, 2016 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Getty Images

This may sound wild to some, but there is one player more critical to Leicester City’s run for the Premier League title than any other of the Foxes’ terrific components.

Many would peg relentless forward Jamie Vardy, while more might choose playmaking wizard Riyad Mahrez. Still others would target goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel or center back Wes Morgan.

Those people, as well-intentioned they may be, would be wrong.

[ MORE: Leicester tops Sunderland | Premier League Playback ]

N’Golo Kante has been simply sensational in the heart of Leicester’s midfield, and if you don’t buy his value by the end of this post than you will when you see the price tag slapped on the 25-year-old Frenchman this summer. It’ll be higher than Mahrez and Vardy, perhaps even if the two fees were combined. Money isn’t what makes him more valuable, though.

Arriving from Caen this summer, Kante has been relentless for the Foxes. He’s played in 32 Premier League matches, scoring a goal and adding three assists.

And in the sticky stuff, where it matters more for a title contender, Kante has been second-to-none in the Premier League this season. While Leicester’s style does lend itself to more chances for tackles and interceptions, there’s no debating the following stats (Credit: Opta Sports).

Kante Leicester

Opta Sports

Yet his value hardly be qualified by traditional statistics. While Vardy was heralded for his two-goal performance against Sunderland, Kante’s two-way game was absurdly good.

Kante, frankly, is a boss. He’s missed just one match this season -- the 2-2 draw at West Brom -- and that is the only time Leicester has allowed a goal since Feb. 27.

[ MORE: All the weekend’s results in the Premier League ]

Amazingly, Kante does it all without crossing the line. A player of his tenacity and aggression would surely be handed many yellows, no? He has three, with just one since Dec. 14.

He’s lined up as more than a destroyer, too, playing on the left at times.

Here’s his first start of the season, Aug. 29 against Bournemouth (All graphics grabbed from Transfermarkt):

Kante transfermarkt

Then his second, Sept. 19 at Stoke City:

Kante transfermarkt

But mainly, it’s been here:

Kante transfermarkt

This isn’t to say that names like Vardy, Mahrez and Drinkwater haven’t been monumentally important to this run, as Claudio Ranieri has been almost as faithful to his XI as Sean Dyche was to Burnley last season.

But this loyalty is doing more than keeping Leicester in a fight for safety, it’s qualified the Foxes for Europe. And Kante is, in my opinion, their most valuable performer.

I’d imagine the wallets of Bayern Munich, Manchester City, PSG and Barcelona will try to acquire that value this summer. But for now, let’s revel in a player who plays with everything England wants from its midfielders. He’s just not English.

Follow @NicholasMendola