Tchouaméni, the Bordelais who still had so much to prove

In January 2020, Aurélien Tchouaméni, 25 Ligue 1 matches on the clock, went to Monaco against 20 million euros. A little less than three years later, the powerful midfielder is playing for Real Madrid and is preparing to take on the role of midfield boss for the Blues in Qatar. Those who knew him in Bordeaux give their feelings about this stunning rise.

“If, in 2019, I had been told that Tchouaméni would be one of the captains of the French team three years later in the World Cup, I would not have believed him for a minute. » Thibault, who has supported the Girondins for 30 years, expresses a feeling shared by a good part of Bordeaux fans. Instead of easily making fun of them – the temptation is great –, it is appropriate to rewind the film of the career of the player who grew up in Artigues-près-Bordeaux, a soft suburb of the Aquitaine capital, for a few months. In January 2020, the Girondins, already in financial difficulty, sold Aurélien Tchouaméni to AS Monaco for 20 million euros plus 10% on the capital gain that ASM will realize in the event of resale. A jackpot, then think many supporters like Thibault. “It made me think of the sales of Adam Ounas or Gabriel Obertan, hopes sold above their valueresituates the just forty-something. For me, Tchouaméni was yet another young man who we were promised would have a great career. But I found that his talent was not obvious. I saw a good little Ligue 1 player, nothing more. I classified him in the category of Henri Saivet or Obertan. When he signed for Monaco, I thought we wouldn’t regret it. »

“He has everything, this guy! »

At the time, the Bordelais only had eyes for Jules Koundé, Tchouaméni’s friend who chained high-level performances while Aurélien saw a less dazzling, more linear progression. The native of Rouen, but settled in the Bordeaux region since his early childhood, plays in Ligue 1 with the club he joined from the age of 11 for a season and a half, but he does not yet shine like his defender friend. During his first season, launched into the deep end by Gustavo Poyet then fed by the Bedouet-Ricardo duo, he only started eight times in the league, but played nine Europa League matches. It is under the orders of Paulo Sousa that he will become an important element of the Girondins. Before moving to the Rock, he will be established thirteen times in half a season by the Portuguese.

“Clearly I wouldn’t have sold him and I would have built a team around that guy. It was sure that he had a fantastic future. » Eric Bedouet

“What struck me was his intelligenceremembers Eric Bedouet. He is very intelligent. Gustavo Poyet had started to make him play, I arrived later, and it turns out that for six months, we played every three days, with the European Cup. At the time, there were great tensions between the supporters and the president of the club, Frédéric Longuépée. It bothered us, it was not trivial. I called Aurélien, just like Koundé and Youssouf, and I told them: “I’m going to make you play. I was a trainer, you’re going to experience extraordinary things with the European Cup, that’s how you’re going to finish your training and reach the professional level. So take advantage of it. .” I really insisted on that. Of course, I knew he was going to make mistakes and he did. He knows what it is, and it cost us dearly. But you have to go through it for a player to flourish. If he does not have this base, this Bordeaux training and his professional debut, which started everything, he does not know the career that follows. » One thing is certain, it is that Bedouet was not at all of the same opinion as the fringe of supporters who saw in the departure of Tchouaméni only a good opportunity to bail out the coffers of the club. “If there was one player I wanted to keep, it was him. Clearly I wouldn’t have sold him and I would have built a team around that guy. It was sure that he had a fantastic future. He could have allowed the club to aim for interesting things and attract people around him. We should have kept him, taken advantage of him and let us benefit from his talent. He has everything, this guy! He is very intelligent, respectful, very strong physically, aggressive in the good sense of the term, technical, he sees the game, scores goals, he is good with his head… And he is well brought up! » A point of view shared by the leaders of AS Monaco.

In Monaco, timid beginnings before the transformation

Aurélien Tchouaméni is therefore flanked by a player label with high potential when he arrives in the Principality, a few days before the end of the 2020 winter transfer window. Shortly before, Leonardo Jardim was replaced by Robert Moreno, who is expected immediate results and who cannot afford to grope too long. Consequently, the athletic midfielder of 1.88 has every interest in shining from the start. Unfortunately for him, his Monegasque debut was not frankly princely. In Nîmes, he appeared about twenty minutes from the end, while ASM had been reduced to nine for the half hour and was heading for a less than stellar setback (3-1). “He comes in during the game, he doesn’t know what to expect and immediately makes a small mistake that weighs him down” recognizes his agent Jonathan Kébé, who insists: “In Monaco, when you arrive for around 20 million euros in January, it’s not a trivial sum. There are jerseys that are a little heavier to wear than others, you have another pressure. » Confined to a substitute role, “Tchouamso” is going through the first slump of his young career. And even if the Covid interrupts the championship in mid-March, even if Moreno, who planned to associate him with Youssouf Fofana in his future 4-4-2, is ejected from the bench to make way for Niko Kovač, this son of a pharmacist and a senior education adviser is not mistaken in professional orientation. On the contrary. “For a long time, he was content to take and give, with this nonchalant side, without really projecting himself. He played simple, easy. If he continued, he was going to be a normal player. So he erased it” says Ferdinand Tchouaméni, his father. “After confinement, when it resumed, he was different” confirms Jonathan Kébé.

“He’s still slender, but he’s a bit beefier than before. He could get pushed around a bit in the past, now he’s the one who pushes others around. » Jules Kounde

A transformation witnessed by his former teammates from the Bordeaux years. “I think he really turned a corner in the use of the ball, notes Jules Koundé. He has always been very intense, with a high volume of play, it is the basis of his game, he recovers an incalculable number of balls and does a lot of races. I think he has also improved in his energy expenditure, he runs smarter. He places himself much better to receive the ball and it is also better in what he does with the ball. He progressed on that, on being more vertical, making passes, not risky, but a little more interesting to help his team move forward. » The Barça defender also notices that his sidekick has “thickened. He’s still slender, but he’s a bit beefier than before. He could get pushed around a bit in the past, now he’s the one who pushes others around. “He struggled a bit at first, but as he is a hard worker, he showed he could playremarks Gaëtan Poussin. I knew he was capable of doing what he does in Monaco, but so quickly and with even more technical ease, I didn’t think so. » The first full season of Tchouaméni on the Rock already marks a real rise in power. The second, even more dazzling, is the one who records his arrival in the France team and convinces Real Madrid to drop more than 100 million euros to secure his services. Taking advantage of Casemiro’s unexpected departure to Manchester United, the neo-Meringue didn’t take long to become embedded in the midfield, alongside the stainless Toni Kroos and Luka Modrić. “In his career, everything is harmonious. His adaptability is phenomenal.” breathes Éric Bedouet, dithyrambic.

A future boss of the Blues?

It now remains to be seen whether this big NBA fan has what it takes to become a Blues captain, in Qatar … and beyond. Selected for the first time in September 2021, the ex-Girondin is, for the time being, the player most used by Didier Deschamps in 2022 (seven games out of eight, for 553 minutes in total). The recurring defections of N’Golo Kanté and, above all, of Paul Pogba are obviously not for nothing. But the tricolor number 8 was able to seize his chance brilliantly, chaining very high-flying performances, despite a slight drop in speed in June. Now it’s up to him to prove that he can be the pillar of a midfield decimated by injuries. Which doesn’t seem to scare him at all. “The pressure, I know it since I was very young, and even more at Real. Frankly, this position in the France team, I approach it with enthusiasm and desire, but no pressure. , he sweeps in a press conference. For Éric Bedouet, history seems written in advance: “His journey so far has been linear. Aurélien left Bordeaux at the right time, then he played in a good European club, here he is at Real… He has the means to settle in the France team, and for a long time. I think he will be a driving force in the years to come, because he makes the players who are around him shine. » This Tuesday evening against Australia, as throughout the duration of the tournament, he will be responsible with Adrien Rabiot to hold the midfielder of the Blues. To the delight of Thibault and all Bordeaux supporters.

Nathaniel Atkinson, first Tasmanian Devil

By Raphaël Brosse and Mathias Edwards
Comments by Éric Bedouet and Thibault collected by RB and ME, those by Jonathan Kébé, Ferdinand Tchouaméni, Jules Koundé and Gaëtan Poussin from France Soccer.

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