It is rare to think any team in world football is okay without the magnificent presence of N’Golo Kante in the centre of the park, but given France’s triumphant UEFA Nations League campaign achieved without the outstanding midfielder, that is not a ludicrous statement.
Sure we could look at the continual brilliance of Karim Benzema, the fortune of Kylian Mbappe’s winner against Spain not being called offside or the artistry of Paul Pogba – but it was a new name that really caught the eye.
21-year-old Aurélien Tchouaméni has already made a mark in Didier Deschamps World Cup-winning squad following his first senior cap at the beginning of September.
After progressing through the youth ranks in international football, playing for the French U17, U19, U20 and U21 sides, it was finally time to take the largest jump into a squad full of elite names, including Kante – who has been one of the world’s best central midfielders over the past five years.
His performances against Belgium and Spain impressed onlookers for his sharp tackling, good mobility and assured passing – playing alongside Paul Pogba in Les Bleus new look 3-4-2-1 system Deschamps switched to during the previous international break.
Tchouaméni should not be a name new to Chelsea fans, the links to him have been prevalent since spring of this year with rumours Chelsea were looking to buy a new midfielder over the summer window. They eventually did on deadline day, but it was a loan for Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez for the season.
The rapid development for him under Niko Kovac at Monaco in Ligue 1 has clearly caught the eye of the Blues, reportedly having a meeting with the player’s representatives back in July – via CareFreeYouth. But it is little surprise that other big European names are in for his signature in the coming transfer windows.
When looking at his impressive ability to win back possession – one of his strongest attributes – among Ligue 1 players to have played 1,000 minutes last season, only three better Tchouaméni’s 6.06 tackles and interceptions per 90. He was among the top 20 for successful pressures per 90 (7.06). Like Kante, the youngster is very effective at winning back the ball, which is vital for a team like Chelsea looking to maintain possession, press higher and prevent counter-attacking opportunities for the opposition.
This week it has emerged the likes of Manchester United, Juventus and Liverpool all have a keen eye for Tchouaméni, seeing him as a player of high potential who could solve each club’s current midfield issues. Manchester United supporters would have obviously seen how influential Pogba was next to him, and hope that after years of trying this may be the figure to help Pogba replicate his international form at Old Trafford.
Losing out on Tchouaméni to a rival after such long-held interest as the club has looked around France for potential defensive midfield options would be a blow.
This feels like a player with real confidence and presence who is ready to take a major step towards the higher echelons of club football, and whoever snaps him up will be getting a very good player with tons of room to grow.
There is also a versatility to his game which makes him ideal for an erratic club like Chelsea who does change directions pretty frequently. Able to play at the base of a midfield three, in a double six within Thomas Tuchel’s current 3-4-2-1 or pivot in a 4-2-3-1, you are not just buying a player, for now, there is a high probability Tchouaméni would have staying power given his impactful work in the centre of the park.
Chelsea will be concerned by Kante’s persistent injury problems which have already kept him out of a couple of games this term, and given his age – managing the elite talent has become an even bigger priority. The future of the Blues midfield looks unclear – with consistent links to West Ham’s Declan Rice, Billy Gilmour out on loan at Norwich and Saul Niguez struggling to gain many minutes so far under Tuchel.
Tchouaméni will make a big step soon and missing out on him could prove very costly.
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Source by Football London