FEATURE | Benoît Badiashile: France’s secret weapon is due a big move

This is the latest feature in our series counting down French football’s 20 hottest properties, those most likely to feature in elite clubs’ 2023 transfer plans. Look out for the next player tomorrow and follow the run down in full here on GFFN.

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Benoît Badiashile’s periods of absence are often marked by considerable downturns in Monaco’s form, and his presence marked by considerable upturns. Never has that been more black and white than it was last season, when his return from a muscular injury coincided with Monaco’s 10-game unbeaten run, which salvaged an unlikely podium position as the principality club narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification. However, despite that apparent centrality to the Monaco project, and despite possessing an invaluable blend of youth and experience, the defender didn’t make a move away from the club this summer, nor did he agitate for one.

At just 21, Badiashile earned a first call-up to the France squad this season after an 16 impressive caps at under 21 level. He’s already made over 130 club appearances, having come through the ranks at the Principality club and is in many ways Monaco’s poster-boy, embodying the club’s values. Like many before him, including Kylian Mbappé and Thierry Henry, he has come through the ranks, burst into the French squad and solidified his role as a key component of the first-team. All that remains is the departure, and for an undoubtedly hefty fee.

But he is in no rush. Understanding the value of continuing his development at a club that prioritises youth, Badiashile has expressed his contentment to the club on numerous occasions. Perhaps the departures of other young Ligue 1 centre-backs has dissuaded him as a move too soon has pushed other careers off track. Nice’s Jean-Clair Todibo left Toulouse to join Barcelona and saw his progress stall. The 22-year old now finds himself back in Ligue 1, where he’s successfully rebuilding his career. Even William Saliba, who left Saint-Étienne to join Arsenal struggled initially too, although his return to Ligue 1 with Marseille on-loan acted as the perfect spring-board.

Monaco manager, Philippe Clement, said this summer that Badiashile needed to stay with the club for another year to continue his development and the player has heeded that advice. Unlike many others, he didn’t agitate for a move, and his reward was a first call-up by Didier Deschamps. Would that have happened if he hadn’t stayed in Monaco? However, it’s accepted that this will likely be Badiashile’s last season in the Principality. Should he maintain his level of performance, he won’t be short of suitors as a versatile player, who looks just as at ease in a back four as a back three.

Questioned by GFFN about his suitability to a back-three, following Monaco’s draw against PSG in August, Badiashile said, “As a team, we felt more at ease in a back three. It allowed us to put pressure on Lionel Messi and Neymar, knowing that we were covered behind. It’s the coach who makes the choices and we adapt to his system, but it’s true that, in a three-man defence, there is more assurance knowing we can step into midfield whilst being covered. We like this system, and we showed that against PSG.”

The left-footed Badiashile is often placed on the left of the three and he is a defender who likes to play on the front foot. He enjoys being aggressive in his defending and pushing up to apply pressure, comfortable in the knowledge that, if he does get turned, he has not endangered the structure of the team. He’s also calm on the ball. The left flank is Monaco’s main source of attacking threat and Badiashile plays a key role. As a left-footed player, his passes to left-back Caio Henrique are difficult to cut out, making ball progression down the left-flank a useful resource for Les Monégasques. Standing at 6’4, Badiashile also offers a towering aerial presence, featuring in Ligue 1s top eight in each of the last three seasons for percentage of aerials won. A 77% win ratio equalled France’s second best last season.

However, he also looks at ease in a two, making him a versatile option for clubs in search of a new centre-back, regardless of the system that they play. The reported €100m sale of Aurélien Tchouaméni to Real Madrid last summer meant that Monaco were under no obligation to sell, but as former manager Niko Kovač previously referenced, he’s a “bankable” asset and it’s only a matter of time until the club cash in.

Despite being just 21, it feels like Badiashile has been around an eternity. Having made his debut in 2018, Didier Deschamps reminded us that he’s still “a young player that is progressing.” A guaranteed starter at Monaco, he could reach 150 club appearances by the end of the season and whoever snaps him up will obtain an experienced, mature player with plenty of room for further development.

Luke Entwistle