By Nick Purewal, PA
Thomas Tuchel has admitted Chelsea must consider N’Golo Kante’s wretched injury luck in potential new contract talks for the France star.
Kante will miss at least another month due to the latest in a string of galling hamstring injuries, with the 31-year-old battling intermittent setbacks for the last few years.
The World Cup-winning midfielder’s Chelsea contract expires next summer, at the same time as Italy star Jorginho.
Chelsea’s new owners are determined to stop senior players’ contracts running down in parallel, as with Andreas Christensen and Toni Rudiger last term, who both left on free transfers.
Blues boss Tuchel believes Kante remains “unique” in world football, but also accepted the shrewd tactician’s injury profile remains a concern.
Asked if Kante’s injury record will have a bearing on his contract situation, Tuchel replied: “Yes. You have to consider everything that is on the table.
“And on the table is his potential, on the table is his influence, and his quality.
“But on the table of course is his age, his salary and his injury rate, of course.
“From there you build a whole picture and try to find a solution.”
Kante’s blend of destructive ball-winning ability, high-octane graft and increasing quality on the ball make him a vital component of Chelsea’s strongest XI.
The former Leicester star’s services will be in high demand despite his injury issues should he look at options beyond Stamford Bridge.
Tuchel continues to consider Kante one of his key players but admitted the wide-ranging impact of his every absence.
Asked if title challenges are sustainable when such an important player is missing so frequently, Tuchel replied: “This is a key question and the answer is maybe no, but we try to.
“It’s much more difficult because you see the impact that he has, you see the impact in the goals that we concede, the amount of goals, the amount of points that we have, the amount of goals that we concede, the amount of goals he makes.
“He makes players simply better around him. He gives something that is very unique and don’t forget he also installs confidence that you cannot measure.
“That’s why he is a key player, but for the key players it is super important to be on the pitch and to have the impact.
“By the rhythm that you mentioned, I meant you can count the matches that he is missing, but what about the first two, three, four matches where you need to rediscover your rhythm? Nobody is counting these matches, so maybe in real life it is even more than just the matches he is missing.
“And then he comes back for the first match from the bench and maybe a second from the bench, and then a third one still a bit struggling with confidence and rhythm.
“This is basically the story and, yeah, we have huge hopes we can turn things around, but this was a bad start.”