Age: 19 Club: Sevilla Position: Central midfield
Strengths: Physique, aerial ability, tactical discipline Weaknesses: Immaturity, long-passing
The last long, left-footed central midfielder Sevilla acquired from RC Lens was Seydou Keita. Nostalgic bias may, therefore, have lubricated Geoffrey Kondogbia’s transfer last summer. Most Lens fans did not seem particularly bothered when the transfer mill first churned out rumours of the youngster’s departure. In fact, excitement grew when Napoli and Juventus, who were the first clubs linked with the France U20 international, had allegedly lodged bids of six millions euros – the same amount Lens collected for Seydou Keita just five years prior. More clubs were linked and the price catabolically dropped until Sevilla got him at around 3.5 million euros.
If any set of supporters are to be trusted for their erudition of talent, it is les Lensois. The fertile academy has recently manufactured a respectable list of talents among which are the likes of Mohamed Diame, Raphael Varane, Adel Taarabt and Nolan Roux.
So when the Sang et Or faithful categorized Geoffrey Kondogbia among their club’s talented alumni, we were right to put stock in it. It wasn’t Kondogbia’s talent that was in doubt; it was his attitude. There were complaints of egotism on the pitch and bouts of stupidity off of it. Last April, Kondogbia was caught driving without a permit. When called to the precinct, Kondogbia presented an embarrassingly dyslexic driver’s license (Belgique was spelled ‘Blegique’) which only exacerbated his case. In the end, Lens intervened and Kondogbia got off lightly when the court settled for a minimal fine of 7 000 euros.
Just as it seemed Kondogbia’s attitude would subsume his undeniable talent, his dramatic transfer to Andalusia materialized. I contacted Abshir Maxamed, twitter’s favourite Sevillista, for some insight on Kondogbia’s progression at his new club:
Kondogbia from an Andalusian perspective
We know Kondogbia plays in centre midfield, has he adapted to any other position at Sevilla?
Geoffrey made his debut as a LB against Girona in a pre-season match, but since then has only appeared as DM for Sevilla. His progression in the last 2-3 months has been incredible.
Were you satisfied with the price of Kondogbia’s transfer?
For €3.5 million, this has been one of the best buys – from a long-term perspective – that we have completed in a long time. However, it should be noted that Sevilla were supported by a sports investment group called Doyen Group in the purchase. Doyen Group now own 50% of Kondogbia’s contract, but they have no federative rights in him, Sevilla have those rights.
There were rumours of ill-discipline at Lens. Have you seen this manifested in any sense at Sevilla?
Over the past few season, acts of indiscipline have occurred at Sevilla, sometimes at a level which is simply unacceptable for a football club; players going out clubbing the day before a match, fights in training etc. However, that trend has slowly disappeared from the squad. An improvement in discipline has been seen, and Kondogbia has been one of the most disciplined players. You rarely see Kondogbia losing his cool on the pitch, unlike Gary Medel or Emir Spahic have this season. The disappearance of his previous misdemeanours could be because he is in a new country with new different social rules, away from close friends and family etc.
What impresses you most about Kondogbia? What would you like for him to improve?
What I’ve been so impressed with him is the power in midfield he delivers; we haven’t seen a player like that since Seydou Keita. Positioning, tackling, pressing, tactical awareness are his strong points. What I would like him to improve on is his technical abilities with the ball (first touch, passing etc) – especially in the final 3rd.
As long as Geoffrey Kondogbia continues his progress at this rate then he won’t be here for long. A very, very special player.
Digne-ified praise among peers
Supporters are not the only ones waxing lyrical; Kondogbia’s peers have also been singing his praises. Following a scrappy 2-0 win against Portugal U20, Lille left-back Lucas Digne couldn’t suppress the admiration for his compatriot.
(on his progression at Sevilla) ‘It doesn’t suprise me at all! Kondogbia? Pfft. He’s a very, very good player.’
Kondogbia’s man of the match performance vs. Granada
FFW Grade: A-
Now that the plaudits are raining in, Kondogbia must continue on the progressive road he has paved in the last 2-3 months. Consistency, sobriety and incremental improvements will be the keys to stardom for Sevilla’s new strongman.