Graham Potter has said his focus is on getting N’Golo Kanté fit rather than whether Chelsea should extend the midfielder’s contract before it expires next summer.
Kanté, who has been out with a hamstring problem since August, has struggled with injuries during the last three years and his fitness problems are likely to be a factor during talks over a new deal. Thomas Tuchel, Potter’s predecessor at Chelsea, said last month that the France international’s issues could force him to accept a contract on reduced terms.
Yet Potter, who indicated that Kanté will be unavailable when Chelsea look to kickstart their Champions League campaign against Milan at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night, is not thinking about the 31-year-old’s future. The head coach added that he is not concerned about Kanté being able to talk to foreign clubs about a pre-contract from 1 January.
“My focus at the moment is to help him rehabilitate in a good way so that he is available for us and on the pitch,” Potter said. “When he is on the pitch he is a huge asset for us. The other thing is between the club and him. My focus is to help him get fit and enjoying his football. There are not many players in world football like NG, so the quicker he is back the better.”
Potter, who refused to discuss whether he would be interested in signing Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo in January, said he needs to take care given that Kanté is not training at full speed yet. Chelsea, who are at risk of failing to reach the last 16 after taking one point from their first two games in Group E, will need midfield alternatives against Milan.
Another consideration for Potter, who has injury concerns over Jorginho and Kai Havertz, is whether to stick with Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal. Édouard Mendy is back from injury and Potter is not ready to name a first-choice goalkeeper yet. “I’m in no rush,” he said. “You let football decide.”
Milan top the group with four points but have a host of injury concerns. The Italian champions are without Mike Maignan, Simon Kjær, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Theo Hernández, Davide Calabria, Alexis Saelemaekers, Junior Messias and Alessandro Florenzi.