Frank Lampard has accused France of a lack of communication and criticised Didier Deschamps after N’Golo Kanté returned from international duty with an injury that will keep him out of Chelsea’s game against Newcastle on Saturday.
Kanté has been plagued by fitness problems this season and the midfielder had to withdraw from the France side that beat Iceland in qualifying for Euro 2020 after suffering a groin injury during the warm-up.
Lampard is fuming with France for making Kanté sit on the bench against Turkey last Monday. The 28-year-old has struggled since suffering a knee injury this season and has also had ankle and hamstring problems during this campaign, restricting him to six appearances for his club.
The midfielder is one of Chelsea’s key players and Lampard asked Deschamps not to pick him during the September international break. That prompted the France manager to joke about Olivier Giroud’s lack of games this season. Yet Lampard was less than amused when Kanté was not sent home after the Iceland match and said Chelsea’s doctors struggled to get information from their France counterparts.
“The Kanté one was not a laughing matter because we communicated before the last international break because he was injured,” Chelsea’s manager said. “Let’s think what benefits the player. He didn’t go, we both agreed on that. That’s how things should work.
“After the first game when he pulled out, he then had a fitness test the day before the second game; it was clear he couldn’t play. He then sat on the bench on the evening of the game, so that’s not communication … our doctors were speaking and there were times when things weren’t coming back to us when I would expect them to.”
It was a costly international break for Chelsea, with Denmark’s Andreas Christensen suffering a hamstring injury that will sideline him for two weeks and Croatia’s Mateo Kovacic a doubt to face Newcastle because of a thigh problem. Lampard is annoyed his medical staff did not have longer to treat Kanté.
“We got a player back a bit later,” he said. “I understand when players are on international duty, they are their player as such, but it was clear he wasn’t fit to play. We would have wanted him back to work on him but it’s been and gone and as with every international player I will try and have open lines of communication with every manager.”
Ross Barkley could benefit from Kanté’s absence after impressing during England’s 6-0 win over Bulgaria, scoring twice and grabbing an assist. “I was loving his arrival into the box,” Lampard said. “It’s what you always want to get when you’re playing midfielders with attacking qualities. I’m delighted to see players going away internationally and doing well, particularly if he hasn’t been playing as much as he might like here.”
Barkley has struggled to hold down a place in the Chelsea side and Lampard feels the 25-year-old has room for improvement. “One thing from working with Ross is that he wants to listen and learn,” he said. “And he’s got great talent, which is probably why people have maybe judged him at a level at a young age because we all get excited when young talent comes through in England.
“His story and his injuries and coming here to Chelsea where it is competitive, we have given him challenges. It is up to him to show here what he showed for England on Monday night. He has done in parts already. Midfield players that can go by a player, use their left and right foot and come up with a moment out of nothing are gold, but you have to have the complete game with that. Ross certainly has those talents and can get better.”