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Kante initially preferred Marseille move over Leicester

N'Golo Kante spent one season at Leicester, winning the Premier League title Credit: PA

Chelsea's midfield dynamo N'Golo Kante has won plaudits for his all-action style which seems set to help him land Premier League titles in successive seasons - but he has admitted that he almost never joined Leicester City.

Kante left Caen in the summer of 2015 and signed for the Foxes for £5.6 million, playing a huge role in their incredible run to the title.

One year after joining, he was off again, this time for £32 million to Chelsea who currently sit top with 10 games to play, again with Kante playing a pivotal role in the centre of the park.

But while on international duty with France last week, Kante has allowed that Marseille were also interested in signing him from Caen - and that his initial instinct was to take another step up the Ligue 1 chain before moving abroad.

Speaking to Canal Plus, Kante has also suggested that there are more deserving players than he of the Player of the Year award, including several team-mates at Chelsea.

Among the clubs that most wanted to recruit me were Marseille and Leicester.

I thought I had to go through a stage in France. I remember the generation of [Mamadou] Niang, [Franck] Ribery and [Samir] Nasri and it was a team that I liked, especially in the Champions League.

There are quite a few players in the Premier League who deserve this [Player of the Year] award.

There is [Eden] Hazard, Diego Costa and David Luiz in my team.

– N'Golo Kante

Gibson: England call-up is something you dream of

Ben Gibson didn't make his debut, but was pleased to get a first call-up to the international squad Credit: PA

Middlesbrough captain Ben Gibson has spoken of his pride after earning his first senior England call-up for Sunday's 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Lithuania.

The 24-year-old revealed he had been set to jet off on a short break with his girlfriend when he got the call from Gareth Southgate to join the squad after an injury to Chris Smalling.

Gibson, who has impressed in the Boro back-line this season despite their slump into the relegation zone, was an unused substitute in the routine Wembley win, and told the BBC he couldn't wait to link up with the squad.

It has all been a bit of whirlwind - I had just got my boarding passes printed for a short trip to Majorca with my girlfriend when I got the call on Friday lunchtime.

The trip had to be put on hold and I couldn't get down (to Wembley) quickly enough.

To be called up to represent your country, to be a part of it, is such a proud moment, not just for me, for my family who go everywhere with me.

It's something you dream of growing up and it was a privilege to be there.

– Ben Gibson


Chelsea's Zouma open to loan move before World Cup

Kurt Zouma has mainly been used as sub this season for Chelsea Credit: PA

Chelsea centre-back Kurt Zouma has suggested that he is willing to consider a loan move away from Stamford Bridge next season as he bids to win a World Cup spot with France.

The 22-year-old has barely featured this season due to a long-term recovery period after suffering a cruciate ligament injury last year, with Antonio Conte's back three well-established in the meantime.

While Zouma still affirmed he sees his long-term future to be at Chelsea, he was open to a temporary move away if it would give him the opportunity to break into Didier Deschamps' plans with the national team.

Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny and Barcelona's Samuel Umtiti started at centre-back in France's qualifying win over Luxembourg, while the likes of Raphael Varane and Adil Rami are also frequently involved.

Speaking to beIN Sports, Zouma, who has only played four times in the Premier League as substitute since his return to fitness, admitted his future was not yet certain.

My aim is to impose myself at Chelsea. When I came to the club two-and-a-half years ago, I had a desire to continue here.

I'm very happy. I've never focused much on the future. I think more to the present, with the squad, which is very good and which is going well. We want to do great things.

A loan before the World Cup? Why not.

We'll see at the end of the season, but I'm focusing on Chelsea.

I'm confident and I know I will play. I've not talked about my future with Antonio Conte.

– Kurt Zouma


Scholes backs Rooney to fight for England place

Wayne Rooney has lost his place in United's XI and in the England squad as a result Credit: PA

Former England midfielder Paul Scholes believes Wayne Rooney still has a role to play for the Three Lions.

The ex-Manchester United star claims his old club and country team-mate Rooney is far from finished on the international stage.

Captain Rooney was left out of Gareth Southgate's squad for Wednesday's 1-0 defeat to Germany and Sunday's World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

He has been battling a knee injury while Southgate also had doubts over his lack of game time.

Rooney has made only nine Premier League starts for Manchester United this season and scored just five club goals with his future at Old Trafford in doubt.

But Southgate has said record England scorer Rooney, who has 119 caps, remains in his thoughts and Scholes feels Rooney should remain part of the Three Lions set-up.

Wayne has been a sensational footballer for England and Manchester United for nearly 15 years. He is greatly respected and I still think he has a part to play with United and England.

He has great experience, he can pass knowledge on to young players and it's up to Gareth if and when he wants to use it.

I don't want to talk about him going to another English club, I hope he gets himself back into the United team. He has a fight on his hands but the Wayne Rooney I know is someone who will face that challenge and try to do it.

He still has a prominent role to play for England and United. There's been a lot of speculation over where he goes now but Wayne, with what he's done, has earned the right to do what he wants to do. I hope he does stay and fight.

– Paul Scholes

England return an emotional occasion for hero Defoe

Jermain Defoe led England's team out despite Joe Hart being captain Credit: PA

Jermain Defoe struggled to keep his emotions in check after hitting the target on his first England appearance in three and a half years.

The Sunderland striker has not worn the Three Lions since November 2013 but showed he has lost none of his poacher's pedigree when his first-time finish teed England up for a 2-0 win over Lithuania.

It was the 34-year-old's 20th goal at international level, coming four years and four days since his 19th, but there was another reason the moment felt special.

Defoe was accompanied on to the pitch by terminally-ill five-year-old Bradley Lowery, the Sunderland fan with whom he has formed a "best mates" bond in recent months.

Joe Hart was named England captain for the evening but insisted Defoe and Lowery lead the team out. The striker told ITV how the occasion left him emotional, but remains aware he needs to continue his good form at club level.

It's hard to put into words really.

I had to keep my emotions (under control), obviously little Brad was with me. You can imagine how I felt doing that, having done it with my club as well, it was special.

Just to be back playing with the lads was a great feeling. I enjoyed it, it's been a good week.

Just to win the game was important and we did that. It's hard to put in words really to be back.

Obviously I've got to go back to my club and make sure we finish the season strong. Like I've always done, I'll keep my head down and see what happens.

– Jermain Defoe
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