Myron Boadu’s (23) first few months on the Riviera were more endured rather than enjoyed. Arriving from AZ Alkmaar in August 2021, the €17 million price tag looked to be weighing heavily on the young Dutchman’s shoulders, with him netting only once in Ligue 1 before the turn of the year. Fast forward to May and Monaco are on a seven-game winning run, whilst Boadu looks to have broken free from the shackles that constrained him during those winter months; the arrival of spring heralding a new, much more positive era in a Monaco career that is only in its infancy. Boadu sat down with GFFN journalist Luke Entwistle, to reflect on an incremental process of adaptation that has allowed him to refind the confidence that made him such a prolific goalscorer in the Eredivisie.
Moving abroad for the first time, Boadu admitted that he struggled to anticipate what to expect in Ligue 1. “ I’m a young player. For me, it was the first time going abroad and of course to a stronger league, so that was for me, in the beginning, a little bit difficult. I expected it, but on the other hand, I also expected that I’d be scoring goals every game, like in Holland. So at the beginning that was a difficult thing to manage.
Boadu isn’t the only export from the Eredivisie to struggle in recent times. Donny Van de Beek (25) and Davy Klaassen (29) are go-to examples of players who have struggled to replicate their form having left their domestic division. Klaassen now finds himself back at Ajax after a short spell at Everton, whilst Van de Beek is currently on loan at the Merseyside club from Manchester United, where he has failed to establish himself as a first-team regular under successive managers.
But one needn’t look any further than just down the coast from the Principality to understand the difficulty in leaving the Eredivisie and adapting to a foreign league. OGC Nice’s Calvin Stengs (23) also made the move from AZ Alkmaar to the Côte d’Azur in the summer, and experienced similar issues to those that befell Boadu. Their physical proximity was a creature comfort for Boadu, who revealed, “We just talked about the new life that we were experiencing, and he had similar problems to me. We talked a lot, and I think it was good to have each other.”
Perhaps on the agenda during one of those discussions was the difference in style between the two leagues; the approach of those fighting relegation from Ligue 1 was particularly alien to Boadu, as was the physicality. “I saw a difference in the style of play. Most of the teams play against us with five defenders and in the Eredivisie, even the clubs that are playing to avoid relegation are playing a 4-3-3, attacking football. That is the main difference, as well as the physicality. It’s not normal; all of the defenders here are so strong, and I consider myself a strong guy. That’s what really stands out for me.”
Whilst a whole myriad of other hypotheses can be floated regarding the discrepancy between the Dutch league and the top five European divisions, Boadu offered an interesting insight into the role of training in the Netherlands. “What I see is everyone here has a winning mentality, even in training, which is a little bit different from Holland. In training in France, when we lose as a team, we can go back to the dressing room angry, disappointed. It is really competitive, but I think that is good. In Holland, it’s a little bit less so. We come off the pitch and it’s finished.”
That intensity in training, although it may have taken some time to get used to, is now reaping tangible benefits for Boadu, who is feeling improvements in his game, especially on a physical level. “I had to adapt, it was finding out the right schedule to also work on my physique. It was also good to replicate in training what I would expect in a game, with Axel Disasi (24), Benoît Badiashile (21) and Aurélien Tchouaméni (22). Those kinds of guys are super strong, so in that way, it allowed me to adapt to Ligue 1’s style of play.”
Boadu’s improved fitness and physicality has caught the eye of manager Philippe Clement, who has noted the improvements that have been made. “When I first arrived, he was physically not at his top level. He has grown a lot in the past months.”
During last Friday’s pre-match press conference, Clement gave some anecdotal evidence of how that growth has manifested itself. “I’m going to laugh,” began the Belgian coach. “This week we had a heavy training session on Tuesday. The last exercise was a match 3-v-3. A few months back at this moment, Myron would have already been dead before the match, but at this point he was still good. When I blew to finish the training, he said in Dutch, “Coach no, it’s not possible that it’s over already. You said it was a heavy session today.” No-one else understood, but I laughed, because I see a big difference from a few months back.”
Whilst Boadu has seemingly reached another level physically since Clement’s arrival, the eradication of the language barrier has also impacted upon his tactical understanding. “Whilst I can understand in French, it makes it easier in training, because he can explain to me even better in Dutch and then I know exactly what to do. I don’t even have to think, I just know,” said Boadu.
The Dutchman is honing a degree of automatism on a tactical level, whilst those intricate understandings are now further developing with his team-mates. Boadu has relished the opportunity to develop alongside the prolific Wissam Ben Yedder (31), who recently broke his personal record for goals in a single league campaign.
“Ben Yedder is a fantastic player and a fantastic person. For me it was important to see a top striker in front of me. I’m happy that he’s my team-mate. In training I watch what he does, how he does it and I try to add it to my game.” Boadu began.
“Playing with him and Kevin Volland (29) is easy because we all have many qualities. We know how to find each other, we talk a lot, we sit next to each other in the dressing room and we speak a lot during training. If we are in a finishing drill then they will give me words of advice, and I appreciate that from them.”
It is not just in attack that Monaco have refound their rhythm; the improvement is universal and has been facilitated by a calmness, exuded by Clement.
“The coach is always calm, optimistic and positive, and that’s exactly what we need because we’re a young group of players,” said Badiashile ahead of Monaco’s match against Angers. That sentiment was supported by his defensive partner, Disasi, who just a week earlier had stated, “The coach has brought us confidence. Even when things weren’t going our way, he was still there telling us that we have to forge ahead and reverse this negative spiral.”
Although the improvement at AS Monaco in recent weeks has been global, if anyone can be singled out as a symbol of their resurrection, then it is surely Boadu. Having only scored twice during Nico Kovac’s reign as manager, at a goal every 510 minutes, he has netted four under Clement at a goal every 96, including three in his last six games.
Prior to that recent run of goals, was a pivotal moment in Boadu’s season in what was ultimately a bittersweet moment. Returning from an injury sustained in the league fixture against Nantes at the beginning of Clement’s reign, he came off the bench to net a crucial equaliser before Monaco ultimately lost the Coupe de France semi-final tie on penalties.
“It was a very important moment for me because I felt that from January until that moment, I became the person I am today, I became myself again. The first six months was a matter of adapting to this new situation and I think that is normal… I was of course happy to have scored that goal, but also ultimately disappointed for the team as we wanted so much to be in the final. In any case, I knew at that point I just had to continue like that.”
The Nantes defeat was the beginning of a difficult March for Clement’s men. Out of the Coupe de France, they would soon depart from the European scene with an aggregate defeat against Braga, whilst a loss against Strasbourg had seemingly put Champions League qualification out of reach.
“We had a lot of disappointments one after another, but the coach always told us that he knew how good we could be, and I think that it’s important for a coach to do that and we respect him a lot. We want to fight every game for him, for the fans to win games.”
When it rains, it pours. Following the mid-week defeat to Braga, few held out much hope of Monaco beating PSG just three days later, whilst rumblings of discontent and a mass-clearout of the club’s hierarchy, reported by L’Équipe on the eve of the game, created a portrait of a club in crisis.
That, however, was not how the build-up was perceived from the inside, as Boadu revealed when speaking about the dynamic going into a match that would thereafter be perceived as a turning point in their season.
“ Before PSG, the dynamic within the team was already good, but of course if you beat PSG 3-0, it’s going to do a lot of good to your confidence. On top of that, PSG is the best team in the league. We already knew how good we were, we just needed a game to confirm that, and PSG was that game.”
Monaco have strung together another six wins since, amounting to a seven-game winning streak, their best since January/February 2021. Confidence is currently pulsating through the veins of a resurrected team, and Boadu is at the heart of that. Doing away with an admitted mental fragility in front of goal, the Dutchman is refinding his touch.
“That confidence in taking the next chance is something that I also had in Holland so I had to rediscover that. At the beginning of my time here I got overly frustrated with myself when I missed a chance, whereas now I just think, “okay, you missed this one, but the next one is going in, and if you miss the next one then the one after that is going in.”
That mindset is now instilled in Boadu, and was particularly evident during Monaco’s match against Metz in April. Having had a goal ruled out for offside, he did not let his head drop, and did get on the scoresheet just five minutes later in what was the decisive goal – not that he celebrated. “I thought the second goal was going to be ruled out by VAR. I would have been devastated, but then again, I would have gone for a third.”
“It was an important moment for my confidence, for the confidence of the team. I was happy that I could help the team with the winning goal and that’s why I came here – to be decisive.”
“I think this season has taught me a lot. As I said as well, I talk with the right people and they give me extra confidence to refind myself. Now I just want to continue to score goals and I hope that I can do that.”
It has been a formative season for Boadu, that could yet end in the realisation of a “dream.” Outside the podium places only on goal difference, the prospect of Champions League football for Monaco next season is once again a truly realistic one.
“The Champions League is where the best teams are, and of course you want to compete with the best. I think with the history that Monaco has, of course we should be playing in the Champions League. For all of us it is a dream, and I know that we can do it.”
On the cusp of realising one dream, the young Dutchman is working towards the actualisation of another: selection for the Netherlands’ squad for this winter’s World Cup in Qatar. Boadu has one cap and one goal to his name for the national side, and although there isn’t currently any contact with the Dutch selectionners, he endeavours to force his way into their plans.
“It’s a dream to go to the World Cup for sure. But at this point I just want to continue here like I’ve been doing. For me, the Dutch squad is currently far away, but I think everything is possible. So I just have to continue, end the season well and then next season, from the first minute I have to do the same.”
An unshackled Boadu is once again allowing himself to dream, and whilst he can already count having “refound himself” as an important achievement this year, 2022 may yet offer so much more for a striker, who has only just begun to hit his stride.