Ngolo Kante’s return to the France squad for the European Championship has his team mates excited about the impact of the diminutive but dynamic defensive midfielder, who has been absent from international football over the last two years.

Persistent hamstring injury, surgery and a move to Saudi Arabia kept Kante from the French team for 24 months before a surprise recall from coach Didier Deschamps ahead of the tournament in Germany.

He has since played in both warm-up friendlies against Luxembourg and Canada and at training has got his team mates purring with delight.

“I had the impression that there were three of him,” quipped Marcus Thurman at a press conference on Saturday.

“There’s no time to play in training anymore. As soon as we have him on our team, we win. He has reminded us in a week why he was one of the greatest midfielders in Europe.”

On Friday, Olivier Giroud and Benjamin Pavard said much the same. “He has not changed. He is the same player I have known for years in the national team and at Chelsea. He is everywhere. It’s great to have him with us,” Giroud told reporters.

“He is incredible. Yesterday (Thursday), I was in his team. I felt like there were two more of us. He’s still the same person, always smiling. He hasn’t lost any of his football acumen. I still find him very strong,” added Pavard.

The 33-year-old Kante, with 55 caps, looks likely to be in the line-up when France play their opening Group D game against Austria in Duesseldorf on Monday.

Coach Deschamps was delighted with his performance in the two friendly matches ahead of France’s arrival in Germany.


“For those who had doubts about his abilities and the intensity of play, he is still at the same level,” said Deschamps, who had surprised everyone when he named Kante in the squad but might have pulled off a masterstroke.

“Even though he hasn’t been here for a while, he’s not out of place,” the coach said last week.

Kante, never one for many words, expressed his delight at his return in an interview after the match against Luxembourg on June 5.

“I’m really enjoying being back. I missed the camaraderie, the locker room, the jersey, the atmosphere of the national team.”

He also dispelled doubts about his readiness after a season at Al Ittihad.

“I’m coming off a season with a lot of very close matches, I feel capable of playing my part during this Euro with the team.

“I knew that if I had a good season, I had a chance of being back in the squad. This is the case for quite a few European players who play in Saudi Arabia,” he added.