Given the simplicity with which a midfielder boasting infinite energy and splendid game-reading skills transformed a team tipped for relegation pre-season into Premier League winners, it comes as no surprise to see clubs of similar ilk trying to repeat the trick.
French international N’Golo Kante’s almost telepathic ability to intercept opponents’ passes after he had harried them to the brink of tears was an integral factor behind Leicester City winning the top flight last term.
Obviously, his midfield talents weren’t the only contributing factor, but for many it was the former Caen man who deserved PFA Player of the Year recognition and it is he who looks the most likely diamond to be prised out of the Foxes’ crown by admiring rivals.
What was arguably the most remarkable aspect of Kante’s emergence though, was that prior to the previous campaign, he was unfamiliar to even the most niche of football hipsters.
Leicester’s acquiring of the French star will have prompted the bulk of Premier League clubs to send their scouts out in search of similarly-styled players, aware of the marked improvement such an addition can spark.
Evidently, Middlesbrough are one of those to have taken note, having purchased Atalanta midfielder Marten de Roon ahead of their return to the Premier League.
The comparisons between the Dutchman and Kante are striking, which is no doubt why the Serie A side were able to command a reported £12m for a little-known player yet to play continental football or represent his country.
Last season he averaged 3.4 tackles and 3.7 interceptions per match.
No player in the Italian top flight could match the former mean, while only four players cut out more opposing players’ passes.
In total, he relieved adversaries of the ball no fewer than 121 times and just one peer made more than his 132 interceptions.
By comparison, Kante’s final season at Caen yielded averages of 4.8 tackles and 2.9 interceptions per match.
Having such a player in their arsenal by no means morphs Boro into title contenders, but their decision to strengthen their defensive-midfield department makes it clear they subscribe to the theory that this is where Premier League success stems from.
Adam Clayton, the reigning defensive screen at the Riverside, was arguably the club’s best player last season, rendering the decision to spend a significant chunk of the summer transfer budget improving this position a surprising one.
The pair will likely be deployed alongside one another next season as Aitor Karanka’s troops attempt to steer clear of relegation, for which they are currently available to back at 5/4.