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Tiemoue Bakayoko and how to go from Europe’s best destroyer to a midfield disaster

Bakayoko's rapid decline is a sorry sight

Some men rise, some men fall, I hear your call, stand tall now.

To paraphrase The Streets, how has Tiemoue Bakayoko’s career come to this?

Just two years ago the Frenchman was being lauded as one of the most effective midfield destroyers.


The floor is not living up to your price tag

AFP or licensors
The floor is not living up to your price tag

Now he is in danger of becoming nothing more than a punchline in England and Italy.

To understand how Bakayoko first became a firebreathing wrecking ball you have to go back to the start of 2016-17 season, before Monaco’s Galacticitos rose to stardom.

Bakayoko had made just 31 league appearances in his first two years and wasn’t on the best terms with Leonardo Jardim.

However, after taking advice from the OG defensive screen Claude Makalele, Bakayoko ripped it all up and started again.

New tinder pic

AFP - Getty
New tinder pic

He downsized his luxury villa, swapped his wavy pink car for a normal black one, changed his diet and began boxing.

It was at this moment that he became the perfect battering ram in Monaco’s team of artists.

That season he partnered Fabinho in midfield as Monaco beat PSG to the league title and got all the way to the Champions League semi-final.

Tackling anything that breathed in the centre of the pitch and protecting his defence while Kylian Mbappe and Bernardo Silva made sweet music upfront, Bakayoko was a phenomenon.

All of Europe’s big boys were fighting over him and eventually Chelsea won the tussle to make him their second most-expensive signing in history, behind Fernando Torres.

The man behind the mask

The man behind the mask

Sadly, his time at Chelsea would mostly be spent in the wilderness and he would shuffle out of the club with barely a whimper.

Touted as the yin to N’Golo Kante’s yang, Bakayoko was supposed to make Chelsea’s midfield an impenetrable fortress.

However, Bakayoko never impressed Antonio Conte enough to demand a first team spot and his season could be summarised with his disastrous performance at Watford – being dismissed after just 30 minutes.

Conte was replaced with Maurizio Sarri, who brought in Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic, which in turn left Bakayoko relegated to Chelsea’s loan army with a move to Milan.

Chelsea included an option to buy in the contract which was a signal that they were pretty much ready to wash their hands of the man they’d spent £40m on the summer before. Ouch.

Considering Bakayoko was joining what is probably the worst Milan side in the last 20 years, and just 12 months before he was at his barnstorming best, he probably expected a return to first team action.

His failure at Chelsea could be put down to a new league, not getting on with the manager… Or so we thought.

In much the same way he looked devoid of touch, vision or awareness during his time at Chelsea, he has looked the same if not worse in Italy.

Under Gennaro Gattuso Bakayoko has managed just 82 minutes in seven games since switching to the San Siro.

And the Italian manager, who was a pretty decent destroyer himself has had some harsh words for Bakayoko.

“He needs to learn how to receive the ball, he needs to correct his posture. One week is not enough to correct the defects from players,” the Milan coach said.

Gattuso was right about his posture

Gattuso was right about his posture

The Milan hierarchy have been so disappointed with his levels in training and two Europa League starts they are threatening to cancel his loan contract early and at a cost.

Unwanted and unloved times are tough for Bakayoko.

Was it a case of wrong place wrong time… Twice?

He picked up a solitary cap for France in a friendly against Spain but while his former colleague Mbappe was winning the World Cup, Bakayoko didn’t even make the squad.

Tell me what Pep is like

Rex Features
Tell me what Pep is like

Sarri clearly deems him surplus to requirements at Stamford Bridge and he couldn’t make it at a mid-table Serie A side, so where next for Bakayoko?

Is he destined for a move to Istanbul Basakhsekir? Or will he go and rehabilitate in China?

But he’s only 24 so there yet might be a chapter of redemption to add to this story.


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