Here we look at young players across the globe who we believe have the potential to become the next big thing. At the age of 22, Nicolas N’Koulou is one such player, who is shaping up to fill his huge potential. He currently plays for Marseille. Here is his story, what sort of player he is and what he can become:
Nicolas N’Koulou started his career by joining the ‘Kadji Sports Academy‘ in Cameroon, in 2001 at the age of 11, where the likes of Samuel Eto’o and Stephane Mbia have been produced. He played there for many years, but the academy has many links with French football, and every year, many clubs send scouts to Cameroon to have a look at the up and coming talents. In 2007, he was snapped up by Monaco in Ligue 1, where he initially played in their second team in the CFA. NKoulou impressed, his ability to get stuck in and his enthusiasm for the game shone through, and he was soon promoted to the first team, inheriting the number 3 jersey in the process. He won his first professional contract for the club at the tender age of 18, and in the 2009/10 season, he made his way, gradually, into the first team and played 24 games for his club. The next season was a dreadful year for Monaco, which saw them, somewhat shockingly, relegated to Ligue 2. One might think that N’Koulou could have been at fault here, but in reality this was not the case. The then 20 year old held his own and looked composed amid the chaos taking place around him.
At the end of the season, with Monaco going down, it was clear that N’Koulou would not be going down with them. A host of clubs were interested, most notably Marseille and Arsenal. Both clubs made bids, which were accepted, but the Cameroonian international chose to stay in France and go to OM. The player clearly did not feel ready to leave the country yet, and Marseille seemed like a place, where he could still be near his family in France, and play at the highest level. The move also showed that N’Koulou was not greedy. Rumours were surrounding Monaco about a possible take over, and indeed, as few months after the 22 year old left the club, a Russian billionaire bought two thirds of the club. N’Koulou would be a much richer man had he stayed!
N’Koulou continued to impress at Marseille. Upon signing, it was initially thought that the Cameroonian would not play as important a role as he did; but became first choice along side Stephane Mbia who he knew from the same sporting academy in Cameroon. The two therefore developed a formidable centre back pairing. They were able to complement each other very well, as N’Koulou is very good a bringing the ball out of defense and picking a pass, but is weak in the air. Mbia is very strong in the air, so they had the perfect mix. N’Koulou also has very consistent level of high concentration and this is something that he has worked on since his days at Monaco. He has almost eradicated mistakes out of his game almost entirely. “I definitely used to commit too many mistakes. In every game I’d lose my concentration once or twice, but now I’m more focused. That’s where I think I’ve really improved the most.” he said when asked about his progress. N’Koulou is developing into an all round defender. If he can improve his aerial ability, then he has the capability to become one of the world’s best.
N’Koulou’s achievements also stretch to the international arena. N’Koulou played his first game for Cameroon in the 2008 Olympic Games, and has since played almost 40 games for his country. As a 22 year old this is pretty impressive. His leadership qualities and composure have shone through with his two teams and in February 2012, when previous captain Samuel Eto’o was suspended due to his role in a boycott, the Marseille player was made captain of the national team, and he has been in every game since. This is once again a marvelous achievement and stresses what this young man is capable of.
As expected, such performances from the player have attracted attention from other clubs, and as we exclusively revealed to you, an unknown Premier League club made a bid for the player in January (read here). Arsenal have since shown an interest and the player has said that:
“The club have an agreement about my future. If they receive an offer they can not refuse, I will leave.”
Monaco are rumoured to want the player back at the club, as they are set to move back into Ligue 1, Manchester City and Chelsea have both sent scouts to watch the player and even PSG and Barcelona are said to be interested. N’Koulou has always been about focusing on the task, and he will not let his mind slip to think about a possible transfer away from the club. Marseille are in a relatively poor financial state at the moment and N’Koulou is the obvious player to sell in order to balance their books and recent comments made by the player are getting Arsenal and PSG fans in particular very excited. The general belief is that this man can become one of the very best defenders in Europe.