Kante is my Ballon D’Or, says Conte

N’Golo Kante would be the coaches’ choice as the world’s best player, says Chelsea boss Antonio Conte— but the Italian admits Eden Hazard is the Chelsea ace most likely to win the Ballon d’Or.

Kante is my Ballon D’Or, says Conte

France midfielder Kante finished eighth in the voting and Belgium playmaker Hazard 19th as Cristiano Ronaldo won the prize for a fifth time, tying Lionel Messi’s mark.

Real Madrid’s Ronaldo, Barcelona’s Messi and Neymar of Paris St Germain are usually the standout candidates for the prestigious prize, voted for by journalists.

But Conte reckons Kante, like defender Paolo Maldini and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon before him, is destined to miss out.

Conte said: “Honestly I don’t know if N’Golo Kante can win the Ballon d’Or in his life because of the characteristics of this player.

“(But) for me, he is the Ballon d’Or. For a coach Kante has to win, for every coach.”

Conte says Ronaldo, Messi, and Neymar have an inner desire to keep winning, a “sacred fire”.

And the former Italy and Juventus midfielder reckons Hazard can challenge them for the right to be the world’s best by nurturing this “flame”.

“Eden has the right characteristics to try to fight with these giants,” said Conte.

“He has to try to do this. And to improve his position in this table in the next year.

“When you see these players you see a hunger in every moment. For this reason, these players are special.

“I like to call it a sacred fire, when you have it inside you, the desire, the will to win every game, to score goals.

“Every one of us, we have this sacred fire and we have to find the right solution to improve it.

“The flame can be big or little. When you have an inferno it means you are like Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar.”

Chelsea play at West Ham today, with Conte believing the number of London derbies makes the Premier League more challenging.

He said: “In this league every game is very tough, but to play during a season eight to ten derbies is not simple. I think it’s more difficult.”

West Ham boss David Moyes has no plans to cancel Joe Hart’s loan deal in January even if the goalkeeper is stuck on the bench.

Hart is set to be dropped for West Ham’s home game against Chelsea today following an unconvincing start to life in east London. The 30-year-old, signed on a season-long loan from City, is poised to lose his place to Spanish keeper Adrian for the lunchtime clash.

That means the England international could be restricted to appearances in the cups — including an FA Cup third-round trip to his former club Shrewsbury next month.

Were he to lose his place permanently Hart’s World Cup prospects would be in serious jeopardy, but Moyes nevertheless wants to keep him at the London Stadium.

“I would not get into that conversation,” said the Hammers boss.

“I don’t think we could work here without two top goalkeepers. Because we have got a couple of cup games, we have got an incredibly busy period.

“What if we got an injury, who would we play? I would definitely want the two goalkeepers.

“They are both really, really good goalkeepers. Joe is England’s number one and Adrian is a really good goalkeeper here at West Ham so we have good competition.”

More in this section

Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
Home Delivery
logo-ie

HOME DELIVERY SERVICE

Have the Irish Examiner delivered to your door. No delivery charge. Just pay the cover price.

IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox