Le50 2017 – Yves Bissouma

Bissouma LOSC

“We continue to invest in the future while not forgetting the present.” The words of Lille CEO Marc Ingla when they presented Yves Bissouma with a new contract, keeping the Malian international midfielder at the northern club until 2021.

It’s a huge vote of confidence for the 20-year-old who only started five games in Ligue 1 this season; but it’s not misplaced.

Following the same path led by Idrissa Gueye and Adama Traore before him, Bissouma has emerged as the next African prospect to progress into the first-team, but now, with Gerard Lopez’s takeover giving les Dogues a stronger base, it may come just at the right time and the club have a chance to keep him for a long time, unlike the other two.

Bissouma’s quick, sharp movements have made a great impact in the middle of the park. The JMG Bamako graduate is not afraid to have a pop from distance, best demonstrated against Angers when he found the top corner from over 30 yards out. He burst inside from the left, beat two defenders and unleashed an unstoppable shot with his right foot.

Everything that Bissouma does seems to be at 100 miles per hour, and there is a reckless nature, but it’s exciting and dynamic and gets you on your feet.

Once in possession, the Malian midfielder just wants to make things happen. Running at defenders, pushing the ball forward, he is a real force of nature and one that takes some stopping.

Bissouma is raw and you can see the rough edges to his game, but with the right guidance, especially from someone as adept as Marcelo Bielsa at bringing the best out of people, it could be the making of the young man.

Able to play in a number of roles through the middle of the park, it is clear to see why Lille wanted to nail him down on a long contract. The Argentine coach likes to play either 4-2-3-1 when faced with two opposition forwards, or his standard 3-3-1-3. Bissouma has the energy, somewhat like Gianelli Imbula gave him at Marseille, to cover as a two, but also flourish with more bodies around him.

In early 2016, when Mali finished second at the Africa Nations Championship, coach Djibril Drame picked out Bissouma for special praise after they surprised everyone by knocking out the Ivory Coast.

He explained that he was a big fan of the midfielder, but chose not to start him in the semi-final due to his discipline problems. Stood on the touchline, he told the midfielder he would only bring him on if he was going to score – if he failed, he’d take him off.

With four minutes to go, Bissouma made his entrance, and just two minutes later, he controlled a knockdown on the edge of the box and burst past the defender to calmly slot home the winning goal.

That says everything there is to know about the young midfielder. He has the potential to be a game-winner every time he is on the pitch, but one just has to find a way to harness that energy and make it work through an entire game.

That will be Bielsa’s job for the year ahead, and it’s going to be fun watching him try.

Andrew Gibney

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