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Humble, ambitious and a rising star: Tchouaméni delivers masterclass performances at FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

From a rookie in France’s national team to a FIFA World Cup finalist in only one year and four months. How can the tide can turn and how can a player become so crucial to a team? It might have something to do with the sheer talent displayed or the surprising maturity on the pitch for a 22-year-old that had little international experience before the World Cup in Qatar.

However, Aurélien Tchouaméni looks like he was born to feature in France’s midfield, borrowing the tenacity and grit from other greats like Patrick Vieira or N’Golo Kante, but also shining with the ball at his feet and scoring goals from outside the box like Zinedine Zidane was doing in his prime.

Sure, Tchouaméni has not reached those heights, he is still a player that has not won any major trophy apart from the UEFA Super Cup with Real Madrid this summer, but he is set to be a generational talent, a player who can deliver over 10 years of excellency to France and at club level.

Born in Rouen, Tchouaméni moved to Bordeaux when he was little and was inspired to play football by his father, a football-playing pharmacist. At six years old, he touched his first ball and he hasn’t looked back since, impressing with his overwhelming potential.

“I followed my dad a lot when I was little, I could say I was his first fan. The more I grew, the more I realised I can do something in football. I started for a team in the suburbs, but when I joined Bordeaux, I knew this was going to be my destiny,” said Tchouaméni in an interview for “Onze Mondial”.

At first, he was playing either as a striker or as a playmaker. His potential was earmarked by many at Bordeaux, but they made Tchouaméni drop back and lead the game from the midfield. His response? A simple yes, fast becoming the best in that position.

In January 2021, Monaco, a team renowned for trusting in young talent and focusing on developing players came knocking with a €22 million offer. In dire straits financially, Bordeaux could not say no to the offer for the midfielder. In just a few months, Tchouaméni not only made his mark, he was also the second captain of the Monegasque team, due to his excellent demeanour both on and off the pitch.

In a short time, earning rave reviews from the fans and the press, but also from his own coach, Niko Kovac, Tchouaméni was selected for France’s national team by Didier Deschamps, in spite of his young age, with a very difficult position needing cover.

Instead of flopping, Tchouaméni immediately excelled as the centre midfielder and impressed Deschamps, playing 20 times and scoring two goals for “Les Bleus” in only 16 months.

Then came the big break. Real Madrid, focusing on young talent in recent years, wanted Tchouaméni as the centrepiece of their project. An offer of €80 million, subject to a rise to €100 million if certain conditions are met, was tabled. Monaco knew that the player wanted it. Everybody was happy. Tchouaméni was now a Real Madrid player.

“I picked him because I thought he had the potential to be there. He has confirmed that to be the case on his debut and then on his first start. There are quite a lot of new players. They should use Aurélien as an example and perform the way he did,” said Deschamps.

Once again, the pressure was on Tchouaméni to deliver. Once again, deliver he did, with superb performances both in La Liga and in the UEFA Champions League, nothing short of superb, despite his lack of experience and being only 22 years old.

At FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, he has been nothing short of amazing thus far, one of France’s most consistent players, plugging the gap left by injured stalwarts Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante in the midfield.

“I’m still young and I still have a lot to learn,” said the player, after making his debut for Real Madrid. Humble, without letting stardom get to his head. Yet France’s midfielder is also ambitious.

“I have objectives, dreams, the desire to play for the best clubs, to win titles, to impact my sport and my position. I want to be remembered for positive things. I want to leave my mark. I don’t want to end my career as an ordinary player and be forgotten about,” he told L’Équipe last year.

His first chance to enter immortality will be on Sunday, at the Lusail Iconic Stadium, when he starts against Argentina in the final at Qatar 2022. If France wins, his legacy will be cemented as the 22-year-old World Cup winner.

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