Joe Cole lavished N’Golo Kante with praise after his man of the match display against Atletico Madrid as Chelsea progressed to the quarter-finals of the Champions League following a 3-0 victory on aggregate.
The 29-year-old rolled back the years with a vintage performance at the heart of a Chelsea midfield which totally bossed last night’s second leg at Stamford Bridge.
Kante was typically influential at the base of his side’s midfield, snuffing out attacks and making 13 ball recoveries overall.
The France international, also made a significant contribution to the attacking side of the game and drew admiration from his manager following a lung-busting run which helped create space for Emerson Palmieri’s tie-clinching goal deep in injury time.
Free from the injuries which have disrupted his career over the course of the last 18 months, Kante is thriving again and becoming a key figure under the fourth manager of his Chelsea career to date and Cole believes the former Leicester City star is back to his best.
He told BT Sport: ‘You have got the legs in midfield now. You have got Kovacic and Kante back, and Kante looks about five years younger again.
‘He has missed a lot of football, but he has had a good run at it now and he has built his fitness and match stamina up that you need.
‘He just looks so comfortable. I think he likes having Kovacic in there as well, because I think it takes the burden off him, and they both get about the pitch.
‘He’s like having two men in there in one. He decides when he takes it, he blocks lines and then still has the energy to keep starting attacks and break forward in the 90th minute as well, he was fantastic and he’s back to his best.
‘He is underestimated for his technical ability, he dribbles and he can pass, he is fantastic.’