Monaco haven’t had a good few years. Losing stars like Kylian Mbappé, Fabinho and Bernardo Silva hit Les Monégasques hard, and now the team are fighting to prove themselves once more. One player who has helped on that fight is left-back Fodé Ballo-Touré.
After a rocky start to the 2019/20 campaign, the 23-year-old has really stepped his game up and has led Monaco towards the top half of Ligue 1. Unsurprisingly, his impact has attracted interest from plenty of Europe’s top sides.
He’s on track to become a household name, so here’s everything you need to know about Ballo-Touré.
He Walked Away From PSG
Ballo-Touré was snapped up by the Paris Saint-Germain academy when he was 13 years old, and there were high hopes for the youngster.
He was a regular for the academy side and was part of the PSG team who reached the final of the 2015/16 UEFA Youth League. He played the full 90 minutes of the final but was unable to stop Chelsea from running out 2-1 winners.
However, after growing concerned by PSG’s love of spending money on stars, he questioned whether the senior side would ever look to academy players like himself, so he chose to let his contract expire and instead took his talents to Lille.
Lille Were Fined for Signing Him
If you want to know just how highly rated he was, Lille actually broke the rules concerning negotiating with impending free agents to ensure that they won the race for Ballo-Touré’s signature in 2017.
Lille were hit with a €15,000 fine as a result of their actions, which isn’t exactly a crazy sum of money in football, but the fact that they were prepared to risk punishment just to sign him speaks volumes of the excitement surrounding him.
Just two years later, Lille sold Ballo-Touré to Monaco for around €11m, so that €15,000 suddenly doesn’t seem like much of a problem.
He Hasn’t Always Been Great Defensively
Senior football hasn’t always been kind to Ballo-Touré. While his raw potential has always been clear, something which has been just as evident is his less-than-perfect knowledge of the art of defending.
His own fans used to berate him without hesitation, and you’ll find plenty of Lille and Monaco fans who will tell you that he’s one of the worst left-backs around. During his early years with Lille, he was substituted before half-time because he was painfully unreliable.
Ballo-Touré has worked on that part of his game and has shown real improvement, but he still does his best work going forward.
He Owes a Lot of His Development to Marcelo Bielsa
When he was struggling as a youngster at Lille, Ballo-Touré was called over by then-boss Marcelo Bielsa, who gave the Frenchman the tough love which he needed.
“[Bielsa] brought me a lot tactically, but above all it is physically that I progressed,” he told RMC Sport. “He asked me to improve my concentration. It was my weak point . He told me that I had everything to be a great player but I needed to be more focused on the field.”
Bielsa isn’t the only boss who has called Ballo-Touré out for his defensive issues, as former Monaco manager Leonardo Jardim also did his best to get through to the youngster.
“The first time [Jardim] saw me, we talked a lot,” he added. “He made me understand that I am not a attacker and he wanted me to defend well. This is the basis. Defend well so that I can attack well afterwards.”
He Spent His Youth as a Winger
It’s hardly a surprise that defending isn’t Ballo-Touré’s strongest asset. Up until he was 18, he was actually a winger.
His tricky feet and electric pace made him a real asset in youth football, but the decision was made to drop him back into defence to try and take advantage of his impressive physicality, so he’s still learning the ropes in his new position.
Just by watching Ballo-Touré, you can see he is developing well, but there’s still a long way to go.
He’s Incredibly Quick
When you’re done questioning his defending, the next thing you’ll notice about Ballo-Touré is that he’s ridiculously fast.
As you’d expect from a former winger, Ballo-Touré loves trying to beat a man. You’ll regularly see him kick the ball past an opponent and simply rely on his pace to get to it first, and nine times out of ten he’ll win.
Ballo-Touré can fly down the wing and lead attacks or follow his winger and provide an overlap, giving Monaco’s attack a new dynamic.
His Goal Led to a Stadium Disaster
Unfortunately for Ballo-Touré, his name is often associated with a dark day in French football back in 2017 when he was still with Lille.
During a meeting with Amiens, Ballo-Touré scored his first senior goal and ran over to celebrate in front of the Lille fans. As the spectators raced forward to celebrate, the stand they were in collapsed and fans fell to the ground. Thankfully, there were no deaths.
“As soon as I scored, I saw the grandstand collapse,” he told Ouest-France. “I saw people screaming and I was a little scared. Afterwards, we waited for information in the locker room and I was told that there were four seriously injured and I started to feel a little guilty.
“But on social media, the fans told me that it was not my fault and on the contrary that they were happy that I came to celebrate my goal in front of them. I felt a little better. Then some injured supporters came to see us, we talked and as their health improved, I was happy.”
He’s Used to Premier League Links
Many who have watched Ballo-Touré will agree that he could become one of the world’s best left-backs under the right management. With that kind of raw potential, it should come as no surprise that English sides have been sniffing around the Frenchman for years.
Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham have all tracked Ballo-Touré in the past, while Chelsea and West Ham United have been linked with the left-back in recent times.
There have also been rumours of interest from Aston Villa and Bristol City, so it seems like it could be only a matter of time before Ballo-Touré heads to England