Le50 2016: Tiemoué Bakayoko – AS Monaco
For Monaco’s Tiemoue Bakayoko, much of 2015 was a slog. The previous year had been hugely successful for him, as he progressed impressively with Rennes before initially making a positive impression at the Stade Louis II, only to fall away alarmingly midway through his first season on the Mediterranean.
“I struggled, you have to work in silence and listen to people speaking about you too much,” he admitted in January. “I had a dramatic loss of confidence. I didn’t know if I would rediscover my place in the project of this club.”
His contribution before Christmas was minimal. He was frozen out of Leonardo Jardim’s plans, having featured only six times in any capacity in the first half of the season, despite his side playing 26 times. In part his absence could be explained due to an ankle injury, yet the greater reason was his remarkable loss of form.
It was the first time Bakayoko had been seriously tested in this manner since breaking through in Rennes a week after his 19th birthday. He was dropped briefly to the bench during his time in Brittany, but that was a blip in an otherwise steady upward trajectory for the defensive midfielder, whose career has, however, been pitted with setbacks.
As a youngster he failed to earn a scholarship at the illustrious Clairefontaine academy, while a broken leg checked his progress in the Rennes youth system. Each time, though, he has responded confidently, and the signs are that he is recovering positively from a difficult year.
“My team-mates did not let me give in,” he confessed, while goals against Nice and Sochaux at the beginning of 2016 were also vital for his rejuvenation. “They brought me confidence. When you score a goal, everything is better, in the eyes of the coach too.
“It’s starting to go better for me at the moment. I’m becoming stronger. And progressively it will get better and better. I’m pretty good in my head.”
Coming from a Parisian family of Ivorian ancestry, it is a little unsurprising that he has drawn inspiration from one who has already pulled on the Monaco shirt.
“If there’s one player I admire, it’s Yaya Toure,” he admitted while still a youngster with Rennes. “He has everything I’d like to have in my play.”
And like a younger Toure, Bakayoko is a player who likes to make his presence felt at both ends of the field. As a result, he has admitted that he feels most comfortable when he is alongside Jeremy Toulalan in the heart of the pitch.
“When he’s there, he allows me to get forward more. I know that he’ll always be behind me, so I can afford to be more aggressive in the play,” he explained.
Nevertheless, he remains mindful that he has not yet reached his potential at the age of 21: “I tell myself that I can do much more. I have a great scope for improvement and I think that I can play at the top level if I’m given the chance,” he explained.
A France Under-21 international, he watched from close quarters as erstwhile Rennes club-mate Yann M’Vila enjoyed a great deal of hype before failing to live up to it. Bakayoko does not possess the same overwhelming self-confidence, and while that has been to his detriment over the course of a difficult year, it has allowed him to keep working hard and may well prove to be to his long-term benefit.
In the coming months he stands at an important crossroads in his career. Tied to Monaco until 2019, he could become a forgotten figure in their bloated squad if he suffers a relapse, but the signs are that he is back on the right track once more.
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