Thomas Tuchel says he will continue to hug N’Golo Kante if the Chelsea star continues to produce man-of-the-match performances.
Kante, 30, thrived in Mateo Kovacic’s absence, forming a creator-destructive partnership with Jorginho in the heart of Tuchel’s midfielder.
In tandem, the duo have been the lifeblood of Chelsea’s game recently, culminating with Kante performing a man of the match demonstration against Real Madrid last week.
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Under the tumultuous clouds of Valdebebas, the Blues organized a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their semi-final, sealing a valuable away goal.
Christian Pulisic produced the merchandise in the opening 14 minutes, but it was the Kante’s Burrow industry that caught the eye, with the Frenchman producing a high-octane performance that stifled the pace of attack on the Real and prevented their famous midfield trident from connecting seamlessly.
In fact, Kante’s venture in the Spanish capital has transcended its defensive qualities, with the pint-sized pivot not only challenging in more duels (21) than any player on the pitch that night, but also completing the most holds (six), showcasing the many strings to his bow.
Such a form naturally drew praise from his manager, who revealed he couldn’t stop hugging the ‘shy’ midfielder due to his recent performances.
“He has to accept that I hug him, I do it a lot,” Tuchel said at his pre-Real Madrid press conference. “He’s a nice guy, almost a shy person. He is calm, he enjoys his own quality time, and he is not noisy.
“I see him smile a lot, I see him interacting with everyone but on his own terms, very shy and polite but I’m so happy that players like him exist. It’s a pleasure to watch.
“What he does with his mentality, a real assistant always goes out of his way to help anyone on the pitch as a kind, humble and calm guy. He’s the guy you need to earn trophies. That’s why I’m so, so happy he’s here.
“I dreamed of this player, to fight for this player in any club where I trained and now he is my player. He has won many trophies with the exception of the Champions League. I’m sure he will do anything to get this trophy.
“For me he is an example, an incredible contribution for any team in the world. He is the key; he will be the key tomorrow.