It’s hard to believe but once upon a time, N’Golo Kante was not sure if he would make it as a professional footballer. In fact, he trained for a completely different career before making it pro.
The French midfielder’s influence in the past 12 months has been priceless for both club and country, but what about the 25-year-old’s humble beginnings at local amateur club Suresnes?
After being turned down by several clubs, a 20-year-old Kante was given a chance in Boulogne’s reserve team.
During that time, he helped the side move up to the fifth division. Kante admitted back in 2016 that he only started to believe that he could make it as a professional a few years ago:
“I was at Boulogne, in the second team – the sixth, then the fifth division. I wasn’t professional, so I kept studying because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make a living as a footballer.” he said via Sky Sports News.
“When I went up to the first-team, I became professional, so I stopped studying. I got my qualification in accountancy, but now I prefer to concentrate on football.”
It may have taken him two years to be handed that highly anticipated debut but in May 2012, Kante made his professional debut on the final day of the Ligue 2 season.
He appeared for already relegated Boulogne in a brief 11 minute cameo, losing 2-1 to Monaco.
It wasn’t exactly a dream debut, but it was a start and the midfielder knew the importance of taking his chances.
The following season, Kante began to make an impression in the French third division and broke into Boulogne’s first team after a number of solid performances in the centre of midfield.
Boulogne finished in 13th place, while Kante missed just one game out of 38 during the 2012/13 campaign. It was a huge breakthrough season and Ligue 2 side Caen decided to bring the midfielder to the Stade Michel d’Ornano on a free.
It was a stroke of genius from manager Patrice Garande.
Not only did Kante contribute heavily to Caen’s promotion to Ligue 1, but he helped the club maintain a place in France’s top league the following year.
In the space of three years, Kante went from playing in France’s sixth division to Ligue 1.
It could have been so very different if the likable character had chosen to progress in accountancy, though.
What a great story.