Aurelien Tchouameni is the real deal... again

He's young, he's French, he plays in Ligue 1, and he's a dynamic midfielder who's attracting interest from the biggest clubs in Europe. A while ago we were saying all of these things about Eduardo Camavinga, whom we profiled two seasons ago in January 2020. And now we can say the same things about Aurelien Tchouameni. But unlike Camavinga, who left Rennes for Real Madrid, gossip suggests that Tchouameni could be heading for the Premier League.

Let's get to know Tchouameni a little through his stats. Here they are, with his performance metrics adjusted to a Premier League standard:

Where to start? There are so many outstanding aspects to this smarterscout young prospect's play. He's a top-quality defender with outstanding skills in 1v1s off the ball, and he's close to unstoppable in the air. His attacking output is huge for a DM, and he still manages to keep his ball retention above average for the Premier League. With equal contributions on both sides of the ball, we estimate that he'd improve a Premier League club's goal difference by 0.1 per game, in expectation, versus a median DM from the competition. That's an enormous impact.

To get a better idea of how Tchouameni plays, let's check out his smartermap from this season:

You can see that he occupies the classic DM band across the middle of the pitch, with a mix of aggressive passing and dribbling in the half spaces, especially on the right. He also makes quite a few forays forward to shoot, and this is one aspect of his game that could use improvement:

Even for a DM, Tchouameni looks like a fairly weak finisher in open play. He can get his head on the ball from set pieces and corners, though he hasn't scored one yet this term. And a lot of his attacking output does come from receiving balls in the box and shooting. So that rating needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

If we consider Tchouameni's overall style at DM, here are the players from Europe's top five leagues who've played in a similar way during recent seasons:

There's an eclectic group here, since we're only matching by playing style. But if we focus on the players who also offer performances at a high level for the Premier League (with the "hot" icon), then we see two of the top DMs in Europe. In fact, Casemiro's stats from last season were startlingly similar to Tchouameni's during the same campaign – not just for style, but for the level as well. Here's a comparison using a Premier League standard again:

Both players can do just about everything on the pitch and are very active in the air as well. Tchouameni's attacking output and finishing skill might be somewhat lower, but he's got more skill in the tackle and on aerials from dead balls. It's also worth noting that Casemiro was playing deeper than Tchouameni, to leave room for the likes of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos:

Despite these differences, is it possible that Real Madrid should have signed Tchouameni instead of Camavinga? The answer is probably that they could use both. Carlo Ancelotti has been using Camavinga further forward, with a combination of dribbling and linking up. The two players, who will doubtlessly have plenty of chances to line up together for France, would complement rather than substitute for each other. And with Casemiro turning 30 in February, and Modric and Kroos even older, more young blood wouldn't do the Blancos any harm.

Yet Tchouameni may be on his way to England, with the Premier League banking yet another lucrative set of television deals, rather than cash-poor Spain. And who could blame the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United for being interested? Players like him don't come along very often. As a final note, here's a list of all the DMs in our database with ratings that can compare to Tchouameni's:

It's a fantastic list, with Leon Goretzka appearing once again. But only Joshua Kimmich and Florian Neuhaus have been able to sustain the same numbers for as many minutes as Tchouameni. Moreover, every player on this list was older than Tchouameni when they posted these stats. Let the transfer window games begin....

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[Photo: Кирилл Венедиктов]

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