On a drizzly afternoon in July last year, Chelsea grabbed themselves a bargain. N'Golo Kante completed his £32 million pound move from the King Power to Stamford Bridge. This wasn't just your average signing - It was a statement of intent.

15 months after Claudio Ranieri sold the tireless midfielder, Kante has been rewarded for his fine form with a prestigious nomination for the 2017 Ballon d'Or trophy. He's relishing his opportunities under Antonio Conte and continues to establish himself as one of the best midfielders in world football.

Kante's career is flourishing while former Premier League champions Leicester City struggle to find the form that helped them lift the famous trophy in 2015/16.

The midfielder's absence is hitting Leicester deeper than anyone could have imagined.

Kante
Image: PA

In a cruel twist of fate, Kante has become a two-time Premier League champion, while the Foxes have since sacked Ranieri, and currently sit in 17th with just one win in seven.

Kante's influence in the past 15 months has been priceless for both club and country, but what about the 25-year-old's humble beginnings at local amateur club Suresnes?

How did he develop from playing in a suburb of Paris, just across the River Seine from the Bois de Boulogne, to playing in front of 41,000 at Stamford Bridge?

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Image: L'Equipe

Four years ago, Kante wasn't even playing regular first team football in the French 3rd division, but let's begin at the start of his rather incredible journey.

After being turned down by several clubs, a 20-year-old N'Golo 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:

"They (Boulogne) were in the sixth tier and it was their reserve team that I played for. With the reserve team we got promoted to the fifth tier so then I at that time I moved up to the first team who were at that time playing in the third tier.

"It was when I left my own environment in Suresnes and played for Boulogne that I finally started to have a desire and a belief that I could make it as a professional footballer." he told LCFC.

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Image: Google

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.

"At Boulogne I learned a lot of the technical and the tactic and this made me improve a lot. I wasn't thinking to play in the Premier League or something like that at that stage, but when I went to Boulogne I had the ambition to become a professional football player and my ambition was to get in the first team.

"When I went into the first team it was a pleasure." he told Chelsea's official website

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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 was a huge step up, but he proved his ability to adapt and improve. Leicester City had picked up on his unique talents.

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We all know what happened next.

Kante's incredible ability to intercept and retain the ball was a perfect match for the Premier League. His contribution to Leicester's title winning season is now very telling as the Foxes face a possible fight against relegation in 2017/18, while Chelsea continue to establish themselves as a possible title contender.

Former Leicester scout Steve Walsh was an integral reason behind the emergence of N'Golo Kante and it's interesting to hear his process when it comes to discovering the game's best talent:

"Character is very important and you can find out a lot about players when you are watching them on the pitch," Walsh told Everton's official site.

"It's not necessarily about what you do when you've got the ball, a lot of the time it's about what you do when you don't have it."

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If a quote had to sum up the man himself, that would be it.

Congratulations on your recent Ballon d'Or nomination, N'Golo, a thoroughly deserved reward for a spectacular 15 months at Stamford Bridge.

Jack Kenmare

Jack Kenmare is a writer at SPORTbible. He's interviewed some huge names in the world of sport, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Pele, Carles Puyol and Tim Henman. He dabbles in all things sport, but football is his biggest passion. He was once hit in the head by a wayward strike from Nicky Butt and lived to tell the tale.

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