Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has criticised France for their handling of injured midfielder N’Golo Kante during the international break, describing the situation as “not a laughing matter”.
Kante, who will be sidelined for Saturday’s Premier League clash with Newcastle, joined Didier Deschamps’ national squad for the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Iceland and Turkey.
The 28-year-old withdrew in the warm-up for the game in Reykjavik last Friday because of a groin issue and sat on the bench in Paris three days later despite failing a fitness test.
Lampard was unhappy with a lack of communication from France and feels the player should have been allowed an early return to west London for treatment.
“N’Golo’s not fit, he had a small groin issue in the warm-up to the first international game for France,” said Lampard ahead of the game against the Magpies.
“We didn’t get him back until after the second game and he’s not fit for Saturday.
“After the first game when he pulled out, he then had a fitness test the day before the second game, it was clear that he couldn’t play.
“He then sat on the bench on the evening of the game, so that’s not communication, so it’s not such a laughing matter I suppose.
“It’s more for Kante himself because he’s not an inexperienced player, he’s been around the block, he’s won World Cups, he’s been a fantastic player. I think that probably could have been handled better for sure.”
Kante, who has been blighted by a series of different injuries in 2019, previously missed qualifiers against Andorra and Albania in September due to an ankle problem, a decision his club and national managers spoke about and agreed on.
France coach Deschamps used the build-up to the latest matches to have a light-hearted dig at Chelsea and Lampard regarding Olivier Giroud’s lack of action at Stamford Bridge.
While Lampard was happy to brush off those comments, he feels the Kante situation is far more serious.
“Before the international break, I know Didier Deschamps mentioned in jest a little bit about Olivier Giroud and that was obviously quite light-hearted and I get it, we all have our selection problems and he had his in the two games,” said Lampard.
“But the Kante one was not a laughing matter because we communicated before the last international break because he was injured so couldn’t go, let’s think what benefits the player, he didn’t go, we both agreed on that.
“That’s how things should work.
“Our doctors were speaking and there were some times when things weren’t coming back to us when I would expect them to come back – that’s what I mean about communication.
“I understand when players are on international duty, they are their player as such but it was quite clear he wasn’t fit to play.
“From our point of view 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 for both our sakes.
“We have to think about the long term and the care of the player as well, so that’s some times a bit of a grey area.”
In a further injury blow, Lampard expects to be without centre-back Andreas Christensen for around a fortnight with a hamstring issue sustained playing for Denmark.
However, the 41-year-old was more positive about the fitness of midfielders Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley and defender Antonio Rudiger.
“Kovacic had a knock on his thigh but has trained the last couple of days, so is in contention. Ross is fine,” said Lampard.
“Rudiger is training outside with the physios, which is a progression for him.
“He has had a tough injury, stop-start, which has been tough for everybody.
“But he is outside, which is positive. A bit of work for him to be done for match fitness but it is positive for us that he is outside.”