Aurelian Tchouameni, the France defensive midfielder who was once told by his father that he was a “common player”, will reportedly be the man to mark Leo Messi. In the absence of Kante, who successfully blocked Messi at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Tchouameni has shown this World Cup that he is capable of rising to the occasion.
“To play against Messi is better because he is a great player,” Tchouameni said a day before the grand final. “It is difficult, but we are all going to work together to achieve it. We are going to make a plan, recover well and work to win this game, because Messi will be there, but he also has ten other players at his side,” said Tchouameni.
He was tireless against Morocco. Statistics from the Marco newspaper show that he recovered the most balls (11), even more than the Amrabat from Morocco (10). Tchouameni also served France’s third-highest passes (40), only defenders Varane and Konate passing more.
Tchouameni also counted on his teammate Kylian Mbappé to even surpass Messi in the final. “For me, Kylian is the best… and he will prove it on Sunday,” he said.
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His father has been the biggest fan, as well as the main motivator with timely barbs to inspire and propel him to greater heights. His father tells L’Equippe about a December 2020 episode with his son.
“In Bordeaux I was very hard on him… In December we are on vacation in Paris, I tell him:” I only want to see you. And in the end I say to him: “You are an ordinary player! We’re not talking about you. Nothing. You don’t make the front page of any newspaper. You play quietly. You’re going to finish in Ligue 1, what! “Ah, that was… wow! It hurt him.
“He leaves my hotel room a little angry. The next day he said to me, “You’ll see.” From January 2021 it will no longer be the same. Three weeks later he scored his first goal in L1 against OM (3-1). It hit him! Plus, once he performs well, he sends me “he’s your regular player, isn’t he!” the father remembered.
Tchouameni’s main attribute is his relentless ability to win balls, pick up loose balls and display the combativeness to block passes. He tends to get close to opposing attackers to defend. The Athletic once reported on his strength for working on the “blind side of his opponents, allowing him to nick in front and intercept when they receive the ball”. It won’t be easy to replicate that against Messi, the wandering walker who suddenly bursts into the heat of battle. Tchouameni’s is also known for his progressive passing – active balls forward into dangerous areas rather than just for possession.
He was a big follower of the NBA and became addicted to American culture, he told his then club Monaco through “great athletes, great musicians and historical figures like Martin Luther King”.
In the final he gets Rabiot at his side, who had missed the semi-final due to illness. Both will have to play a central role, alongside playmaker Greizmann to stop Messi and feed the balls to the forwards.
“We will have to defend well. We will have to show all our qualities. It is a World Cup final, there is Messi, but there is also a lot of quality on the sidelines. We have to be prepared, aware of the chance we have to make history. We’ll see what happens,” Tchouameni has said.