Tiemoue Bakayoko: Meet Monaco's midfield general being squabbled over by Manchester United and Chelsea
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 (70 apps, 4 goals)
- International: France U21 (13 caps, 0 goals)
There are reasons to believe that Tiemoue Bakayoko is starting to realise his potential in the principality too, with many believing that he will eventually follow in the Ivorian's footsteps by moving to one of Europe's major clubs. If reports are to be believed, Jose Mourinho has already made him a summer priority to sign for Manchester United.
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 top of Ligue 1 – Leonardo Jardim's men have scored a phenomenal 64 goals in 21 top-flight matches – and it's only logical that major sides like United and Chelsea have eyes on the young Frenchman.
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.
Bakayoko's whole life changed when Claude Makelele joined Monaco's staff a year ago. One of the best holding midfielders of recent times gave a lot of advice to the youngster
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.
Jardim chose to replace the youngster after just 32 minutes of his debut, and there was no mutual trust between them for quite a while
The start of the 2015/16 season was disastrous as well, but Bakayoko's whole life changed when Claude Makelele joined Monaco's staff a year ago. 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 in Champions League qualifiers against Villarreal proved he was ready to take the reins. Jardim hasn't been disappointed since.
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 has been exceptional in the last few months, 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.
Given his current rate of progress, Bakayoko will soon make his debut for France
"Given his current rate of progress, Bakayoko will soon make his debut for France," Monaco coach Jardim claimed recently. Didier Deschamps certainly shouldn't wait around too long: the midfielder is also eligible to represent Ivory Coast, the country of his parents.
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.
What happens next?
Manchester United and Chelsea are monitoring the midfielder closely, while Arsenal and Liverpool are also thought to have entered the race. A January move is extremely unlikely, though, with Monaco currently top of Ligue 1 and through to the last 16 of the Champions League, where they will face Manchester City.
The principality club are renowned for being tough and successful negotiators, and there's every reason to believe that Bakayoko's eventual price will be close to their valuation of £55m. Such a tag could become a huge burden for the youngster to bear, so it might be sensible for him to stay put for at least another season.