Ligue 1 is full to the brim with some of Europe’s best young talents, but few have generated the same level of excitement as Monaco’s Aurelien Tchouameni.
The winner of the league’s Best Young Player award for 2020/21, the 21-year-old is starting to attract interest from some of the game’s biggest teams, with Chelsea one of many keeping a close eye on Tchouameni.
He’s going to be a household name very soon, so here’s your chance to get to know him a little better.
On paper, Tchouameni’s role may be to sit at the base of midfield, but he actually does far more than that on the pitch.
Starting from a deep position to survey his surroundings, Tchouameni thrives on leaving his post and going to sniff out danger from elsewhere, and he’s ridiculously good at knowing where to put himself to recover position.
When on the ball, you’ll see Tchouameni bursting forward or getting his team moving with some smart passes, and he might even treat you to one of his signature disguised passes which leave opponents chasing shadows when executed perfectly.
At Monaco, Cesc Fabregas has had a front row seat to Tchouameni’s development, and it’s safe to say that the Spaniard is a big fan of what he has seen.
“I think he can play anywhere in midfield and not have a problem,” he told Ligue1.com. “He can play as a defensive midfielder, a No.6, he can play as a No.8.
“In a few years’ time, I even believe he can become a good No.10 because he has the power to get into the box.”
His ball recovery is sublime – Tchouameni ranked second in Ligue 1 in 2020/21 for successful pressures and fourth in tackles won – but he can do all that in a Pogba-sized body.
Comparisons to the Manchester United man don’t stop there. Tchouameni is graceful for a man of his physique, and while he’s not as gifted as Pogba in attack, he’s just as capable of driving forward and picking out a killer pass. He’s a real do-it-all.
The fact that Tchouameni plays like both Kante and Pogba is no coincidence as he confirmed to GFFN that he idolises both and tries to model his game on them.
The youngster has also spent time watching a handful of other midfielders – he names Patrick Vieira, Sergio Busquets and Clarence Seedorf as other inspirations – but it’s Pogba and Kante who have dominated most of his time.
“Sometimes they laugh and call me ‘Pogba’ or ‘La Pioche’ (Pogba’s nickname),” Tchouameni told Onze Mondial. “After one game where I won a lot of balls, they called me ‘TchouaNgolo’.”
Tchouameni began his footballing journey as a striker, but despite racking up the goals when he was six or seven years old, the decision was soon made to move him back into midfield.
An uncanny ability to recover possession, added to his towering frame, had youth coaches believing that Tchouameni’s gifts were being wasted at that end of the pitch and instead repositioned him.
It was a transition which Tchouameni admits to struggling with at first, but it’s safe to say he’s figured it out now.
“His final pass needs to improve a little bit but he’s so young,” said Fabregas when asked about Tchouameni’s weaknesses. “He’s determined to learn and from what I can see and the will that he has, he has a bright future in front of him.”
Tchouameni will never claim to be an elite creator, but he admits that bit of hesitance in the final third and occasional struggles under pressure are two areas in which he needs to improve.
His father confirmed as much to France Football, saying: “He looks a lot at Pogba, [Kevin] De Bruyne and his passing and finishing quality, and Kante for defending.”
While not the kind of player to pull out a 40-yard pass, Tchouameni thrives on smaller, subtler plays to leave opponents in the mud.
“When you see him, you think he’s going to be a Paul Pogba, he’s going to dribble, he’s going to do this, he’s going to do that, while for me it’s more like Thiago Motta or Toni Kroos,” said agent Jonathan Kebe. “He uses his head first before his body.”
Tchouameni is a huge fan of the look one way, pass another passes and regularly goes to that play when under pressure.
It might be Chelsea who have been linked to Tchouameni most, but the young midfielder has actually confessed to following rivals Manchester United.
When discussing comparisons to Pogba, he told RMC Sport: “It’s always nice to be compared to a top player like Paul Pogba, who I follow a lot and of whom I am a fan, because I think we play the same game on the field.
“In addition, he plays at Manchester United, which is a club that I like. He has had a very good career, at club level and with the French team.”
Tchouameni’s breakthrough at Bordeaux came in the 2018/19 season, in which he managed just ten league games before a nasty broken leg ended his campaign early.
It cost him the chance to continue growing in a Bordeaux team which also featured the likes of Jules Kounde, Josh Maja, Otavio and Yacine Adli (side note, a ridiculous team), but he came back with force in the following season.
A regular part of the team in 2019/20, Tchouameni earned himself a €20m move to Monaco in January of that campaign and has never looked back.
As mentioned earlier, Ligue 1 is absolutely stacked when it comes to young players, so for Tchouameni to beat them all to the young player of the year award is no mean feat.
He fought off competition from teammate Sofiane Diop, Rennes’ Eduardo Camavinga, Nice’s Amine Gouiri and Lyon’s Maxence Caqueret to get the prize.
“I’m really proud to win this award, I’m so happy,” he told Monaco’s official website. “It’s a great individual award, but I do not forget that it’s the work of the team that allows me to be at my best.”