Nampalys Mendy can be Leicester's unlikely hero with or without Kante
Nampalys Mendy's arrival at Leicester City doesn't necessarily mean N'Golo Kante will leave the club. Mendy is a similar type of player to Kante, but -- as things stand -- he will challenge Danny Drinkwater for a starting spot.
Mendy arrives from Nice for a club-record fee of £13 million, a record that could potentially be broken with the signing of CSKA forward Ahmed Musa for a reported fee of around £16m. Musa's agent revealed that the Nigeria forward will undergo a medical on Wednesday.
Kante isn't short of suitors, but Leicester are yet to receive a firm offer despite a bargain release clause reported to be in the region of £20m. Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Arsenal have all shown interest. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger even revealed that he knew about the Mendy signing last week, hinting that it could open the door for a Kante swoop -- although it appears Chelsea are the current front runners.
The irony is that Mendy's arrival could potentially persuade Kante to stay. The 24-year-old might prove the French ally that convinces Kante to at least remain with Leicester until January.
Mendy can ease Kante's burden in the centre of the park. The latter clearly enjoys running and has developed an uncanny knack for picking the pockets of attackers when they least expect it. Having a like-minded teammate would be a bonus.
Kante and Mendy together will be a formidable defensive force and allow Leicester's other midfielders to adopt a slightly more attacking approach. That's particularly good news for Riyad Mahrez, who doesn't always relish tracking back.
Leicester are now spoilt for choice in defensive midfield, with Drinkwater, forgotten former Swiss captain Gokhan Inler, now fit Matty James and the more attack-minded Andy King all capable of partnering with Kante.
The truth is that Drinkwater doesn't deserve to be dropped, but if Kante stays loyal to the club, the former Manchester United man may have to make way.
That said, Claudio Ranieri wasn't afraid to bench the club's previous two record signings, Leonardo Ulloa and Andrej Kramaric, during the victorious 2015-16 campaign.
The beauty of Mendy is that he doesn't arrive with an ego, so he would probably be content with a bit-part role to begin with. Ranieri knows this from his time at Monaco, where Mendy was pivotal as the club gained promotion to Ligue 1 in 2012-13.
Since then, Mendy has made 110 league appearances for Nice and won five under-21 caps en route to becoming one of France's brightest talents. He is a mature and combative player whose small stature, like Kante's, is entirely deceptive.
Mendy is also a leader -- he captained Nice to an impressive fourth-placed finish in Ligue 1 last season. He is resilient, intelligent and excellent on the ball, often drawing comparisons with Paris St-Germain's Marco Verratti. He had a pass-success rate last campaign of almost 90 percent and over two-thirds of them went forwards rather than backwards, proving what a positive footballer he is.
Even if Kante doesn't pen a new deal, Mendy can step into his shoes. Leicester fans worried that Kante's departure might unsettle the squad should also think back to 12 months ago, when 2014-15 Leicester Player of the Year Esteban Cambiasso left for Olympiakos. There was doom and gloom with fears City would be relegated without the Champions League winner (he won the competition with Inter Milan in 2009-10). But instead, an unknown Kante replaced him and quietly led the Foxes to their first ever top-flight title.
No one dreamed Kante could be better than Cambiasso, but he was and by quite a distance. Mendy could be a similar unlikely hero next season.
Ben Jacobs is ESPN FC's Leicester City blogger. Follow him on Twitter @JacobsBen.