Aurelien Tchouameni’s 93rd-minute header to seal a win for France over Ivory Coast on Friday evening in Marseille was the perfect icing on top of an influential performance. The 22-year-old is no stranger to Chelsea fans. Having been linked with a transfer to west London since last year, the Monaco man has only grown in stature this season as his progression to a regular starter for his nation shows.
Only making his senior international debut back in September against Bosnia, Tchouameni has already formed a smooth partnership with Paul Pogba at the heart of Didier Deschamps’ midfield. This showing should have only cemented why many top European clubs are after his signature this summer, hopefully reminding those at Chelsea amid the uncertainty of new ownership what the transfer priority should be in the coming months.
With the shortlist for Chelsea’s next owner clarified by Raine, the hope will be a sale concluded by the end of April will give enough time to restart previous transfer plans. Tchouameni was clearly a part of that, with reports last summer stating Chelsea’s interest and discussions held with the player’s representatives.
With West Ham’s Declan Rice also consistently linked, the desire for a new midfielder has been clear, particularly with the duo of N’Golo Kante and Jorginho coming close to the final 12 months of their current contracts. This was a display that summarised why Chelsea have been so keen on Tchouameni and why that initial interest should not dwindle.
Starting alongside Pogba in a 3-4-1-2 formation, not too dissimilar to the one used by Thomas Tuchel, it did not take long for the pair to combine. Tchouameni finding the Manchester United midfielder with a square pass before Pogba floated a deliciously looped chip over the top of Ivory Coast’s defence, which Antoine Griezmann wasted with a scuffed effort.
It did not take long for the youngster to nearly create a chance of his own, showing a willingness to charge up the field before picking up a loose ball and threading a neatly disguised pass into the feet of former Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud. Giroud had just mistimed his run to be halted by an offside flag, but this moment again demonstrated a progressive side to the defensive midfielder.
Even though he can help move the ball quickly, one of the midfielder’s other impressive traits is his ability to quickly cover ground. Arguably his most telling contribution to the game was preventing a counter-attacking opportunity, showing an outstanding level of speed and precise tackling his compatriot Kante would be proud of.
As WhoScored pointed out on Monday, Tchouameni has won possession in the midfield third more times than any other player in Ligue 1 this season, detailing his ability to snuff out danger from a deeper position. This specific moment showed why he could prove a suitable heir to Kante, eating up ground and executing vital tackles to evaporate danger.
His overall numbers from the friendly only clarify this, 100% successful dribbles, the most duels won, nine ball recoveries, two interceptions, two shots and 91% ground duels won. This is a talent who is hard to miss; his influence obvious and a talent Chelsea would regret passing up on.
Chelsea’s potential signing of Tchouameni has a feeling of Kai Havertz’s arrival nearly two years ago. The German had been a long-term target for the club, initial negotiations beginning with Bayer Leverkusen over a year before Havertz would actually step foot in SW6 for an initial £71million fee.
A player who can help form the spine of Chelsea’s best team for years to come, clinching a blossoming talent before he hits his prime. This one is a no-brainer.