Belfast Telegraph

Antonio Conte: N'Golo Kante would be my Ballon d'Or winner

N'Golo Kante would be the coaches' choice as the world's best player, says Chelsea boss Antonio Conte.

But the Italian admits Eden Hazard is the Chelsea ace most likely to win the Ballon d'Or.

France midfielder Kante finished eighth in the voting and Belgium playmaker Hazard 19th as Cristiano Ronaldo won the prize for a fifth time, tying Lionel Messi's mark.

Real Madrid's Ronaldo, Barcelona's Messi and Neymar of Paris St Germain are usually the standout candidates for the prestigious prize, voted for by journalists.

But Conte reckons Kante, like defender Paolo Maldini and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon before him, is destined to miss out.

Conte said: "Honestly I don't know if N'Golo Kante can win the Ballon d'Or in his life because of the characteristics of this player.

"(But) for me, he is the Ballon d'Or. For a coach Kante has to win, for every coach."

Conte says Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar have an inner desire to keep winning, a "sacred fire".

And the former Italy and Juventus midfielder reckons Hazard can challenge them for the right to be the world's best by nurturing this "flame".

"Eden has the right characteristics to try to fight with these giants," Conte added.

"He has to try to do this. And to improve his position in this table in the next year.

"When you see these players you see a hunger in every moment. For this reason, these players are special.

"I like to call it a sacred fire, when you have it inside you, the desire, the will to win every game, to score goals.

"Every one of us, we have this sacred fire and we have to find the right solution to improve it.

"The flame can be big or little. When you have an inferno it means you are like Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar."

Chelsea play at West Ham on Saturday, with Conte believing the number of London derbies make the Premier League more challenging.

Conte added: "In this league every game is very tough, but to play during a season eight to 10 derbies is not simple. I think it's more difficult."

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