Tiemoue Bakayoko: Meet Chelsea's new general who was straightened out by Makelele
Michael Yokhin profiles Monaco's former problem child who the Blues are about to splash £35 million on
The 60-second story
Date of birth: Aug 17, 1994
Place of birth: Paris, France
Position: Central midfield
Former club(s): Rennes
Current club: Monaco (92 apps, 5 goals)
International: France (1 cap, 0 goals)
One of Yaya Toure's most significant seasons came at Monaco, where the then-23-year-old made a name for himself and earned a transfer to Barcelona in 2006/07.
Tiemoue Bakayoko has gradually realised his potential in the principality too, and will follow in the Ivorian's footsteps by moving to one of Europe's major clubs.
After two difficult seasons, the 22-year-old Bakayoko has finally matured and put his combination of power and vision in central midfield to good use. He's contributed strongly to Monaco's rise to the Champions League semi-finals – netting the winning goal against Manchester City in the last 16 – and Ligue 1 title; Leonardo Jardim's men scored a phenomenal 107 goals in 38 top-flight matches en route.
It's only logical that Chelsea have made their move.
Why you need to know about him
Bakayoko's road to recognition has never been straighforward. Considered a bright talent in his childhood, he was hugely disappointed when rejected by the famous Clairefontaine academy; then to make matters worse he broke his leg, which left Rennes as the only club still interested in signing him.
His ability was rated highly in Breton, but his attitude was far from perfect, and off-field issues delayed his first-team debut. It was only at the age of 19, when Philippe Montanier surprisingly left Real Sociedad to replace Frederic Antonetti at Roazhon Park, that Bakayoko got his chance in the starting line-up. As the former Rennes youth director Patrick Rampillon remarked: "Tiemoue is a boy who needs a little more time to realise his potential."
Montanier, who had a short and controversial spell in charge of Nottingham Forest this season, has always believed in nurturing young players – after all, he's the man most responsible for turning Antoine Griezmann into a star. Bakayoko wasn't playing regularly, but Monaco liked what they saw in his 19 starts and offered €8m for the midfielder in summer 2014. "He didn't really feel like leaving, but the chance was too good to refuse, both financially and professionally," Montanier said.
For two long years it looked like Bakayoko had made a bad choice. He didn't see eye-to-eye with Portuguese coach Jardim after performing awfully on his debut in a disastrous home defeat to Lorient. Jardim chose to replace the youngster after just 32 minutes, and there was no mutual trust between them for quite a while. The midfielder then suffered a serious thigh injury in January 2015 that ruled him out for four months. Upon returning, he got a rare chance to prove himself when Jardim gave him a defensive role for the last 15 minutes at Stade Velodrome against Marseille. Monaco were leading 1-0 when Bakayoko came on, and ended up losing 2-1.
The start of the 2015/16 season was disastrous as well, but Bakayoko's whole life changed when Claude Makelele joined Monaco's staff. One of the best holding midfielders of recent times gave a lot of advice to the youngster – not only about playing style, but also about taking care of himself on an everyday basis. His former youth coach at Rennes, Yannick Menu, was also called in to help to put the midfielder back on track. The results were remarkable.
Bakayoko moved from a flashy villa into a regular apartment, started boxing courses, consulted specialists about his diet, and even changed the colour of his car from pink to black. In short, he concentrated on becoming a professional footballer, and Jardim was quick to recognise the huge changes in his character. Bakayoko won back his place, and by the summer he was ready to be truly unleashed.
With veteran midfield general Jeremy Toulalan moving to Bordeaux, and young Chelsea loanee Mario Pasalic leaving the club as well, there was space for Bakayoko to exploit – and he took the big chance with both hands. Makelele left in the summer but his mentee's imperious performances without his mentor proved he was ready to carry on alone – and Jardim wasn't left disappointed.
Bakayoko is an imposing figure in midfield – and while he used to be slender in his youth, he's grown into an athlete of great physical prowess.
He's quick, reads the game well, makes a lot of interceptions and is stong in the tackle, while he can also build play with his quality passing and good dribbling skills. It's easy to see why comparisons with Toure abound.
Bakayoko was exceptional last season, but he's been known to be inconsistent in the past and there's no guarantee that such problems are gone forever.
He can still lose concentration from time to time, and currently needs an experienced leader alongside him to shine, while there's also work to be done to improve his goalscoring record.
Did you know?
Bakayoko's No.14 shirt isn't a tribute to Johan Cruyff, but rather to the 14th arrondissement of Paris where he was born and grew up.
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Get FourFourTwo Newsletter
The best features, fun and footballing quizzes, straight to your inbox every week.
By Conor Pope
By Mark White
By Conor Pope
By Ryan Dabbs
By Mark White
By Joe Brewin