Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger has admitted he thought there was ‘something wrong’ with N’Golo Kante when they first met because of a clicking noise the midfielder makes with his mouth.
But Rudiger now considers Kante ‘one of the nicest guys in football’ and insists that the incredible stories that have been told about the World Cup winners’ down to earth humility are authentic, even now lifting the lid on his reaction to winning the Champions League last season.
“Before I came to Chelsea, I had heard all the beautiful stories about him,” Rudiger, who is leaving the Blues this summer after five years at Stamford Bridge, told The Players’ Tribune.
“They said he is always smiling. They said he still drives an old Mini Cooper. They said he never raises his voice. But you know how it goes in football, right?
“No one is really like that. There is too much pressure, too much disappointment. We are all human. No one is that cool all the time. It’s impossible. Then I met N’Golo.”
“Everything I said to this guy, he would just look at me and nod his head, like he thought everything I said was really interesting. And he would do this thing… he would go *click, click, click* with his mouth. Man, I literally thought there was something wrong with him.
“In the banlieue where he grew up in Paris, they always make this sound. It’s like slang for ‘yes’. I don’t know how it started. I thought it was so funny, because I’m from a similar type of neighborhood in Germany, but I’d never heard anything like that in my life.”
Rudiger went on to explain that ‘everything with NG is authentic’.
“Even the Mini Cooper — people laugh about it, but there is a real story behind it,” he said.
“It was a dream for NG to make it to the Premier League, coming from where he came from, and the Mini was the first car that he bought when he got to England. So for him, it is not just a car. It has a deep meaning. There is humble. And there is humble. And then there is NG.”
Along with Mateo Kovacic, Hakim Ziyech and Romelu Lukaku, Rudigers considered Kante to be more than a teammate and closer to a brother, a bond he insists is surprisingly ‘very rare in football’.
His memories of Kante in particular after Chelsea won the Champions League final against Manchester City in 2021 will stick with him for the rest of his life.
“When we got back to the dressing room, the boys were having the champagne celebration, and so a few of us who are practicing Muslims went into the bathroom to have our peace,” Rudiger explained.
“Me, NG, Ziyech and [Kurt] Zouma locked ourselves in the toilets, and we were looking at our medals, and then looking at one another, shaking our heads. And I will never forget this…NG had the biggest smile on his face. And he started laughing, like only he laughs.
“When NG laughs, you cannot help but feel pure joy. All four of us started laughing like little kids. That moment in the bathroom, for me, is forever.”
Antonio Rudiger was speaking to The Players’ Tribune to give his parting message to Chelsea.
To read 'Dear Chelsea' in full, click here.