French starlet Youssouf Fofana is the former pizza delivery boy set to cause a transfer war between Liverpool and Chelsea this summer | soccer4u
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French starlet Youssouf Fofana is the former pizza delivery boy set to cause a transfer war between Liverpool and Chelsea this summer



The Monaco starlet is the future of France with the physicality and IQ to take England by storm.

The midfielder has been a constant presence in a classy Monaco side this season.

Matched with appearances for Les Bleus in Qatar, a PL move could be overdue

Only eight years since Fofana was dropped from France academy Clairefontaine

The summer of 2023 could well see the window remembered as the Great Midfield Scramble.

A number of Premier League teams are looking to bolster the centre of the pack and next season could see an exciting influx of attacking and defending midfield talent.

One name coming up with increasing frequency? Youssouf Fofana, Monaco’s bedrock in the midfield who has scarcely missed a match for the side since his arrival in January 2020 and helped spur them on to consistent top-four finishes.

Fofana’s talent has been largely allowed to go under the rader due to the high-profile nature of his midfield partner in the Principality, Aurelien Tchouameni, who became Real Madrid’s £70million-man with a move to Madrid last summer.

Here, Mail Sport run the rule over Fofana’s background, and look at the likelihood of where he might fit in the Premier League puzzle.

Out of the shadow of Aurelien Tchouameni, Youssouf Fofana has shone for Monaco and France.

Fofana is a bedrock of the Monagasque midfield but his journey to Ligue 1 was complicated

Who is he?

The 24-year-old midfielder is one of a number of rising French talents born and bred in Paris, and Fofana spent much of his childhood playing in the youth teams of local outfits Esperance Paris 19eme and Red Star Paris. Fofana was a member of the French national academy at Clairefontaine, but just after his 14th birthday, the player was dropped.

It was two years before the player was re-signed to an academy, during which time he returned to studying full-time, and worked as a pizza delivery boy – whilst playing amateur football with JA Drancy – which he described as ‘the best way to make money and follow my dreams’.

‘It’s really hard to bounce back from such a failure – and for me it was a failure,’ Fofana noted when reflecting on his time in the wilderness.

‘I started to ask myself, “why should I bother?”. Some people are cut out for this, some aren’t. Maybe it’s not for me.’

But in 2017, Fofana joined the Strasbourg youth academy, his uncertainty that he could succeed so great that the Alsace team had to make persistent offers to the player. A year and a half later, Fofana made his professional debut and things started to move quickly.

He lifted the now-defunct Coupe de la Ligue trophy at the end of the season having made four appearances in the run, and a season later, clinched a move to Monaco. The midfielder began playing in youth sides at the age of six but was dropped from Clairefontaine just after turning 14 in 2015.

After signing with Strasbourg the midfielder won the now-defunct Coupe de la Ligue in 2019.

Why is he in demand, and by who?

Fofana broke into the first team with a bang shortly after being signed in January 2020, fast becoming a regular team starter and forming an explosive partnership with Tchouameni after the player’s arrival in the same window.

The following season kicked things up a notch and Monaco finished third in Ligue 1, reaching the round of 16 in the Europa League. Under the guidance of manager Philippe Clement, the team secured another third-place finish the following season.

Tchouameni’s departure in summer 2022 may have initially seen them stumbling but Fofana’s experience and consistency has been invaluable, the player even shining now out from under his partner’s long shadow. Extremely strong defensively, the midfielder is comfortable playing as a central defensive midfielder as well as further up in the mid-pack.

Liverpool were the first Premier League club to set their sights on Fofana, with Jurgen Klopp’s side in desperate need of a midfield rebuild this summer.

Although Trent Alexander-Arnold’s tweaked role has paid dividends, Liverpool will be looking to refresh in certain positions with Fofana’s profile likely to appeal to the Red Devils.

With the club interested in marrying quality with quantity in the window – after dropping their plans to tempt Jude Bellingham away from Borussia Dortmund – his approximate £21.9million (€25m) price tag could add to his charm.

Todd Boehly’s Chelsea must offload players before considering the market in the upcoming windowJurgen Klopp is preparing for a midfield rebuild at Liverpool

Chelsea too have started tracking the player, likely tipped off by their co-sporting director Laurence Stuart. Stuart brought Fofana to Monaco from Strasbourg, and was instrumental in securing the services of his team-mate, Benoit Badiashile, in January.

Whilst the Blues are in desperate need of selling a number of players in the summer to not only balance the books but restore equilibrium in the dressing room, they may have a number of holes in their midfield as the window rolls on. Fofana’s compatriot N’Golo Kante is yet to agree a new deal and Mateo Kovacic is being eyed up hungrily by his former manager Thomas Tuchel for a move to Bayern Munich.

Should Todd Boehly think seriously about making the player the third Fofana purchased by the west London club in the summer, he might have an ace up his sleeve: the midfielder was a huge admirer of club legend Didier Drogba as a child due to his family ties to Ivory Coast.

Has he played for France?

Fofana received his first senior call-up under Didier Deschamps in September 2022 for France’s Nations League campaign, after sporadic appearances at youth level, and started in Les Bleus opening 2-0 victory over Austria.

But a greater prize was yet to come. Confronted with a gaping hole in his midfield where Kante and Paul Pogba would have been but for injuries, Deschamps selected Fofana for France’s World Cup squad. Starting in the ignominious defeat against Tunisia wasn’t a showcase that Fofana seized with both hands – his performance was nervy and error-strewn but he was handed a second chance to start after Adrien Rabiot was struck down by illness ahead facing Morocco in the semi-final.

After impressing against Morocco in the semis, Fofana broke into the final against Argentina

Fofana rose to the occasion, pulling off a flinty performance that saw him make four effective tackles and win five duels as France saw off a feisty, overachieving Moroccan side in full flow to reach the final.

‘When I learned that I was called up I said to myself “10 years later I’ve walked back through the front door at Clairefontaine, having left it through the back door”, and that’s good!’ Fofana said with obvious pride ahead of France’s clash with England in the quarter-finals.

‘When the coaches saw me, they were happy. They told me “thank you for proving us wrong”.’

What’s been said about him?

His national team coach Deschamps thinks highly of the midfielder, either starting the player or subbing him on in six out of France’s seven fixtures in Qatar, including the final.

So too does his manager at Monaco, who tipped him for international glory ahead of his first call-up at the start of the season.

Clement prophesied: ‘I see his potential, which he is proving more and more.

‘For me, he has the potential to be in the French national team in the future.’

Would his style fit English football?

At 6ft1, Fofana is a presence as well as an excellent reader of the midfield, and his versatility moving forward makes him a cut-above a standard-issue defensive midfielder. The player excels both on and off the ball, with a strong progressive pass rate and an average of three tackles made per Ligue 1 match.

One area where Fofana has room to grow is in front of goal: the player has just three in 135 appearances. However, two of these came this season, suggesting a hint of ambition develop his skills further.

His bullishness off the ball would certainly be an asset, when too often players moving to the Premier League are outfoxed early on by the physicality of the league, as would his intelligence and strength in recovering the ball.

Additionally, Fofana speaks English, as well as French and Spanish, to further smooth any transition to the dressing room of a Premier League club.

Fofana has a strong tackling rate and excellent vision – which he can communicate in a number of different languagesWith two years left on his contract Fofana is happy at Monaco but could yet be tempted by a high-profile Premier League offer

Is he attainable?

After Tchouameni’s move to Real Madrid last summer, Monaco would have been loath to lose the second figure in their high-flying partnership. As a comparatively older figure in the squad, Fofana’s experience has also given the side a boost.

But the player is set to enter the penultimate year of his contract and as such, the Monegasque outfit know they have a limited time to profit from their player.

A convincing offer could shake Fofana loose, and so too could the promise of Champions League football next season. In an interview with Get Football, Fofana said that to ‘stay [at Monaco] and qualify [for the Champions League] next season, that would be great, it would suit me’, but the player may not yet get his wish.

Monaco currently sit fourth in Ligue 1, five points off making the Champions League qualifying spot. Should the side miss out, Fofana’s desire to make a move could be sparked.

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