Frank Lampard has described N'Golo Kante as "one of the best players in the world", while insisting the midfielder has been a huge miss for Chelsea during an injury-hit 2019-20 campaign.
Kante has established himself as one of the most consistent performers in the Premier League over the last five years, impressing with his all-action style and relentless energy levels in the middle of the park.
The 29-year-old has won top-flight titles at both Leicester and Chelsea during that period, and became a World Cup winner with France in 2018.
Kante has racked up over 34 Premier League appearances in each of the past four seasons, but that record appears to have caught up with him over the past 10 months.
Frank Lampard has rarely been able to call upon the ex-Foxes star for more than a handful of games at a time, with niggling injuries significantly limiting his contribution to the Blues' cause.
An adductor issue suffered during a home defeat to Manchester United had kept Kante sidelined since February, but the coronavirus-enforced break in the season has allowed him extra time to recover.
Lampard is hopeful that a talismanic figure's fitness problems will be a thing of the past when football finally resumes, and he is also looking forward to welcoming Ruben Loftus-Cheek back into the fold after a long-term injury lay-off.
"We had four or five of those [injured players] when we finished playing recently. N’Golo Kante is obviously a great example because he’s played four or five incredible seasons in terms of his individual success and he’s been used quite rightly by his managers a lot," the Chelsea boss told BT Sport.
"This season he’s played only about 40% of our games and even then it’s been difficult for him and I’ve really felt for him on an individual level. He’s been a huge miss for us.
"Looking forward, whenever a restart comes we want to get him in the best shape, want to get Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the best shape.
"We’ve had slightly different plans for them but they’ve been scuppered with what we’ve had to do. The players' health comes first, the mental well-being of the players comes first.
"The self-isolation was tough at first because nobody really knew what it was about we are just trying to get those players who have had extra problems fitter and of course when we get a chance to get back to full training we can get them back to where we need them to be.
"We obviously need N’Golo Kante back in our team, one of the best players in the world. I knew that before I became manager of Chelsea and know that now from working with him.
"I haven’t been able to have him much this year and going forward we, of course, want him fit and raring to go."