Tchouameni is the last young Monegasque talent to attract attention


Finland's Glen Kamara, center, fights for the ball with Frenchman Aurélien Tchouameni during the 2022 World Cup Group D qualifying match between Finland and France at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium in Helsinki, Finland, on Tuesday November 16, 2021 (Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva via AP)

Finland’s Glen Kamara, center, fights for the ball with Frenchman Aurélien Tchouameni during the 2022 World Cup Group D qualifying match between Finland and France at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium in Helsinki, Finland, on Tuesday November 16, 2021 (Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva via AP)

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When Aurélien Tchouameni started his first game for France, the 21-year-old midfielder looked like he has been playing internationally for years.

There were no nerves as the Monaco player displayed unusual coolness and midfield control in Ukraine during a World Cup qualifier in September.

After helping France qualify for next year’s World Cup in Qatar, he is looking to boost Monaco in their attempt to climb to the middle of the table when defending champion Lille visit on Friday.

Tchouameni will be crucial for Monaco’s hopes to overcome a slow start and climb into the Champions League places, just as he did last season when Monaco climbed late to place third.

But it was his performances on the international stage that drew early comparisons with former French midfielders, such as World Cup and European Championship winner Patrick Vieira and Claude Makelele – Vieira’s teammate when the France finished second in the 2006 World Cup final.

Tchouameni has been propelled into the limelight so quickly and brilliantly that Spanish sports daily Marca splashed his name on its front page two days in a row as Real Madrid’s next big signing.

Such flattery came after he helped France win the Nations League by beating Belgium and then Spain in the final, where he started a decisive match in his fifth international appearance and again drew the Warning.

“I woke up (the next day) and saw people calling from everywhere. What does all this mean? “Tchouameni reflected in a recent interview with L’Equipe magazine.” But it’s not being on the front page of Marca that’s going to make me play well. “

However, the fact that French coach Didier Deschamps did not hesitate to pitch Tchouameni against one of the best midfielders in the world says a lot about his confidence in him.

Tchouameni’s rapid rise began in February when an exceptional performance in a 2-0 win over defending title-holders Paris Saint-Germain raised awareness. He kept that momentum going, helping Monaco to peak form in the second part of the campaign and advance to the Champions League qualifiers.

Deschamps rarely waits to test talent at the highest level and when Tchouameni received a first call-up in August, he was quickly greeted by Paul Pogba, who made his international debut at 20 and scored for France to win the final of the 2018 World Cup.

“Paul told me in my first training session, ‘The fact that you’re here means you have capabilities. Don’t be afraid to step into the ball, ”Tchouameni said. “It stuck in my head, I didn’t need to write it down.”

He writes other notes, however, from books he read about the late great basketball player Kobe Bryant, the New Zealand rugby team and former first lady Michelle Obama.

“I have read biographies of people who have achieved excellence,” he said. “(Michelle Obama) is a symbolic figure.”

When you are linked with Madrid and Manchester United, people also expect excellence from you. The next step for Tchouameni will be to join a club much bigger than Monaco, which won the last of its eight league titles four years ago and sit 11th in the French league.

Playing for the little principality’s squad gave Tchouameni a bonus of competition and learning alongside former Arsenal, Barcelona and Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who won two championships in Europe and a World Cup with Spain.

“He did everything in the game. I like it when he gives me advice, ”Tchouameni said. “His sense of position is incredible.”

Given his wealth of experience, Fabregas is also well placed to advise him on his next move.

It’s no surprise, then, that Tchouameni is following in the footsteps of Manchester United’s Anthony Martial and PSG star striker Kylian Mbappe, who made a name for themselves with Monaco before greater fame elsewhere.

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This story has been corrected to show that the spelling is Kobe, not Koby.