N’Golo Kante is one of the most beloved footballers in the world.
While the memes and narrative surrounding the Chelsea star can border on condescending at times, there’s no denying that his humble and unassuming demeanour has endeared him to many a fan.
From stories of rocking up to training in his Mini Cooper days after crashing it to watching Match of the Day with fans in their house, Kante has long since established a cult hero status within the sport.
Kante: Adored by football fans
It’s a status quo that means even neutral and rival supporters can’t help smiling when Kante gets his hands on major silverware from the World Cup to Champions League and Premier League to FA Cup.
And there’s good evidence to suggest that the down-to-earth aura that Kante pervades is one that has been deeply engrained in his character since the early days of his rise through professional football.
Once upon a time, it looked as though the indefatigable midfielder would struggle to make a career for himself in the beautiful game, never mind competing to be crowned as its star performer at the Ballon d’Or.
Wholesome story of Kante at a birthday party
As such, hearing a classic Kante story about his time at Caen feels all the more heartwarming when you consider that he blew out the candles on his birthday cake this week as one of the world’s best players.
Last year, retired defender Felipe Saad told a fittingly birthday-related story about Kante that dates back to their two years together at Caen between 2013 and 2015.
In an interview with Brazilian outlet Uol Sport, Saad recalled that the future Chelsea star apologised for handing him chocolates as a birthday present when he attending his party.
According to a translation by Zach Lowy, Kante’s former teammate explained: “I called [N’Golo] Kanté for my birthday, it was a small party. Suddenly, he arrived at the restaurant with a box of chocolates, all ashamed.
“He apologised for the gift and said he didn’t know what to get because he had never been invited to a birthday party before.”
Saad is then said to have added: “N’Golo is one of the best hearts I know, he’s a profile that doesn’t exist anymore in football. That’s why there’s unanimity amongst the players…inside the dressing room, he’s just the same as what you guys see on the television.”
One of football’s most loveable characters
Imagine disliking Kante.
While it might seem like an insignificant story in the grand scheme of Kante’s incredible achievements, rest assured that it’s another example of exactly why so many football fans love him.
The moral of the story is that supporters see a ‘groundedness’ and complete lack of ego in Kante that isn’t all that common within the glitz, glamour and money of modern football – and it’s hardly a bad trait to celebrate