The 2018/19 Ligue 1 campaign was one to forget for Monaco fans. After Jardim’s shock departure, Henry’s underwhelming first foray into management and the return of the Portuguese tactician to save them from impending relegation, Les Monégasques will be looking for a somewhat calmer and more successful season back under Jardim’s stewardship this year.
In order to achieve this, Jardim is going to have to do something about their shaky backline. Monaco conceded 57 goals in the 18/19 campaign, the 4th worst defensive record in Ligue 1 last season, although xGA would suggest they were hard done by on this front putting their goals conceded at around 48.
With Naldo aged 36 and Kamil Glik 31, Jardim will have to set about reconstructing their backline and future proofing it for years to come. One simple step the club have already started to make is by phasing in young academy graduate Benoît Badiashile into the first team.
Born in France but of Congolese descent, Badiashille is the latest young prospect to come off Monaco’s famed academy production line. He joined the youth set-up in 2016 and since then has represented France’s U16, U17, U18 and U19 sides, signing his first professional contract with the club at the beginning of 2018 after a short run of 12 games for Monaco’s reserve side.
He then made his Ligue 1 debut in November of 2018, a game which saw Thierry Henry’s Monaco side humiliated by PSG 4-0. However, unfazed by the embarrassing defeat, Badiashile went on to make a further 19 appearances for Monaco over the remaining course of the season. With these minutes under his belt and promising performances despite Monaco’s poor form to go with it, Badiashile has found himself in high demand with a number of top English clubs after his signature this summer.
At 6’4, the first thing one would notice about Badiashille is his broad frame, physicality on the pitch and commanding presence in the air. At 18, he’s already physically developed enough to stand up to most Ligue 1 forwards and combines this strong frame and pace, with the ability to read the game to snuff out danger before it arrives. He’s also extremely adept with the ball at his feet and this, combined with the fact that he’s naturally left footed, something which is very rare for a centre back, makes him the perfect ‘modern centre back,’ something that the European market is striving to obtain.
Comparisons could be made with someone like Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli, one of Europe’s best ball playing centre backs, in the way Badiashille commands the defence at the back but is also capable of distributing the ball calmly and with great accuracy when needed.
Taking a deeper dive statistically, the praise surrounding the young player is backed up well by the underlying numbers. Badiashile made a respectable 2.4 combined tackles and interceptions per 90 in his maiden Ligue 1 campaign as well as an impressive 89.5% pass success percentage, a percentage that ranks him 6th in Ligue 1 for defenders aged 25 or under. These passing numbers however could be greatly increased if he was playing in a better side, and makes his current statistics therefore even more impressive.
As mentioned earlier, Badiashile has already been involved in a number of the French national teams at youth level, and this summer he played a crucial role in the U19 side reaching the semi-finals of the U19 European Championships in Armenia with a particularly impressive performance against eventual champions Spain in the semi-finals, despite losing the match on penalties.
However, of course as is the case with any young player, there are still imperfections in his game. His decision-making can be lacking at times but this could certainly be excused by the lack of team structure at the club last season, where, owing to an unsettled set-up, Badiashile was constantly put in situations where a defender would always be uncertain.
In terms of the French national team, the chances of Badiashile ever making any kind of significant run of games for Les Bleus’ senior set-up in the near future is extremely unlikely as unfortunately for him, he is playing his football at the same time possibly France’s greatest generation of centre backs will be too, with the likes of Dayot Upamecano, Ibrahima Konaté, Malang Sarr, Loic Mbe Soh and many more already vying for any possible place in Didier Deschamps side, however international football is not the be all and end all.
The future is certainly bright for Badiashile and as mentioned earlier, he is already being touted for a big move away from the Stade Louis II this summer. Manchester United, Southampton, Wolves and Tottenham Hotspur have all made contact for the teenager this summer, whilst Manchester United desperate for defensive reinforcement however Atletico Madrid, Real Betis, and Valencia have also shown interest. However, it’s going to take a bid of around £35m at least to prize the young starlet away from Oleg Petrov, the new Director General.