FEATURE | What Real Madrid can expect from Aurélien Tchouaméni

“We were in steamroller mode,” recalled Aurélien Tchouaméni in L’Équipe earlier this season. “We constantly had this desire to crush our opponents.” In assessing his team’s effervescent form in the second half of the 20/21 season which had Monaco fighting for the title on the final day, the 22-year-old midfield orchestrator did a good job of describing his own authoritative performances. However, as a powerful, striding, dynamic presence but graceful and supremely technically gifted too, Real Madrid’s new €100m signing is no simple steamroller.

Having emerged at Bordeaux as an 18-year-old, Tchouaméni’s technical ability was obvious, but his ability to affect games wasn’t. Nor was his best role. Too slight and too easily shoved off the ball, he failed to truly excel as a ball winner, a creative move instigator or a dynamic box-to-box man. He was always assured in possession but learning to apply his talent in matches effectively was a slow process.

Tchouaméni’s move to Monaco in January 2020 was perfectly pitched, joining a club keen to give youth a chance after his development had started to plateau at an unstable Bordeaux. The move coincided with significant physical growth too. Previously lightweight and lean, Tchouaméni was suddenly broad and striding confidently around midfield. His physicality now matched his technical ability. “In modern football,” Tchouaméni told L’Équipe, “you have to get good very quickly. The train doesn’t leave the station forty times.”

After Niko Kovač replaced Roberto Moreno in the summer of 2020 as Monaco coach, Tchouaméni quickly became Monaco’s most important player, teaming up in midfield with Youssouf Fofana. The pair covered much ground and maintained possession with ease with tenacity and vision. “I immediately said to myself that this guy was very good,” Monaco teammate Cesc Fàbregas told L’Équipe. “My favourite thing about him is his attitude, he asks questions all the time.”

This season, Tchouaméni’s role shifted slightly. Nominally the midfielder to push on more often and join attacks last term, Tchouaméni has become Monaco’s anchor. To start with, the graceful, ball-carrying Tchouaméni suffered but his ability to dominate the game quickly resurfaced, especially under new coach Phillipe Clement. There’s a low-key but commanding confidence to Tchouaméni’s play and persona. Using a personal video analyst, the studious Tchouaméni wants to become “a complete player” and it shows. “When there is a midfielder that excels in a certain area, I take inspiration from them to try and progress,” he says.

Having broken into Didier Deschamps’ France squad, notably excelling in the Nations League final, Tchouaméni is one of the most promising and effective talents to emerge from France in recent years. This season has proven the 22-year-old’s versatile skillset, adept at sitting deep and breaking up attacks in front of his defence thanks to his mobility and intelligent positioning as well as pushing forward to instigate moves with some deft passing and dynamism, no one in Ligue 1 managed more than Tchouameni’s 114 Ligue 1 interceptions in 21/22, the third most in Europe’s top five leagues overall.

Emphasising his continued ability to dictate on the ball, Tchouaméni finished seventh in Ligue 1 for progressive passes and sixth for successful dribbles while also ranking third for tackles won and 10th for number of pressures, according to FBRef. Unsurprisingly, given he now usually plays far from the goal, Tchouaméni only managed five goals and three assists in 50 games in all competitions but he remains a danger from distance. His long-range screamer against Lille was one of the goals of the season and he still managed 1.61 shots per game in Ligue 1, which puts him in the top 12% of midfielders in Europe’s big five leagues.

As well as boasting passing vision and range, Tchouaméni’s height and physicality are also proving to be an asset statistically, as he won the third most ariel duels of all Ligue 1 midfielders this season. However, compared to Real Madrid defensive midfielder Casemiro, Tchouaméni still has weaker tackles won and successful pressures scores per 90 minutes in league football this season as well as fewer blocks.

Nevertheless, likely to be used alongside a holding player at Madrid – arguably still his best position overall, the elegant but powerful Tchouaméni is much more than just a midfield ‘steamroller’ but the Frenchman’s development is likely to be just as unstoppable.

Adam White

More European Football News