N’Golo Kante has returned from compassionate leave to train with Chelsea, giving encouragement that he could return for the restart of the Premier League season – but he is opting to train alone at Cobham.
Frank Lampard and the rest of the Chelsea hierarchy had given their blessing for the midfielder, who had safety concerns about the Premier League’s Project Restart plans amid the coronavirus pandemic, not to immediately return to group training.
After a negative Covid-19 test ahead of the first day of training on Tuesday, the 29-year-old did complete one session before communicating his concerns ahead of missing the work-out on Wednesday.
The Premier League has since moved forward to allow Phase Two training – full contact sessions between players – and it has indicated that Chelsea’s first match will be on the weekend of June 19.
Indeed, the Blues conducted a limited-contact session on Thursday but the 29-year-old trained away from the group which now sees Christian Pulisic, Mateo Kovacic and Tammy Abraham all back from spells out injured.
There will be optimism that Kante will play a part in the final nine league games of the season plus a possible extra three FA Cup games with the Blues, who were drawn away to Leicester City in the quarter-finals.
Kante has had an injury-hit season and had just returned after being out for a spell before football shut down in March amid the coronavirus pandemic.
There is plenty still unknown about risk factors associated with the highly contagious and deadly virus, but data from the Office of National Statistics suggest black men and women are almost twice as likely to die from Covid-19. This is even when factors such as health, disability, household composition and area deprivation are considered.
Kante also collapsed in the dressing room at Cobham in March 2018 in front of his team-mates, which led to him missing a match against Manchester City. Subsequent cardiology tests, however, cleared him of concerns about his heart.
The former Leicester City star’s older brother, Niama, died of a heart attack before the World Cup in 2018 and the midfielder also lost his father when he was 11 years old.
A host of other players including Sergio Aguero, Troy Deeney and Danny Rose have all made their concerns about restarting known.
However, it is felt that almost all players are ready to return after the Premier League’s meeting on Tuesday with managers and club captains reassured that they are limiting the risk of transmitting the virus.
The first Premier League games will be played on June 17 with Manchester City versus Arsenal and Aston Villa against Sheffield United.