There have been a number of young French players arriving this season in the Bundesliga and instantly showing their quality. There’s Amine Harit at Schalke, Benjamin Pavard down in Stuttgart as well as Jean-Kevin Augustin and Dan-Axel Zagadou at RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund respectively.
However, perhaps a little under the radar of the bigger clubs, but equally impressive has been the level of performance shown by 1.FSV Mainz 05 defender Abdou Diallo. The Nullfünfer may not possess the glamour of a Dortmund or Schalke, but the 21-year-old is already making a number of people sit up and take note following his summer arrival from Monaco.
Despite Mainz struggling somewhat this season, the renowned German football publication Kicker have already named Diallo in their ‘Elf des Tages’ (Team of the Week) six times with the latest nomination coming after this weekend’s 2-0 home defeat to Bayern Munich.
Hailing from Tours. the current French U-21 captain joined Monaco aged 15 and quickly made the step-up into the first team squad alongside a certain Kylian Mbappé, with whom he struck up a close friendship. Last season saw him notch up five Ligue 1 appearances as the Monégasques stormed to the French title for the first time since 2000 to stun billionaire rivals Paris St. Germain. Diallo had previously spent a season on loan at Zulte Waregem in Belgium where he established himself as a key man at the Regenboogstadion.
Mainz, known for their ability to spot talent and then develop it, signed the centre-back for a fee reported to be €5 million on a five-year deal in the summer of 2017 and on signing the young Frenchman Sporting Director Rouven Schröder described Diallo as: “strong in the air and shrewd in the challenge”, adding that they had beaten off competition from numerous clubs to secure the signature of a player who is both quick and “defensively versatile.”
Just as comfortable at centre-back as at left-back, Diallo has instantly become a key figure in Sandro Schwarz’s team this season. He scored his first goal in the 3-1 home win over Bayer Leverkusen on matchday 3 and added another header on matchday 11 away at Borussia Mönchengladbach. The ball-playing defender had a pass completion rate of 82% in the Hinrunde.
The step-up from the French league is one that Diallo is keen to quickly adapt to. “At the moment in France there are a lot of very, very good young players, who aren’t being given a proper chance by their clubs. The German clubs have recognised that and brought in the young French players, who know they can develop well in the Bundesliga” he told Bundesliga.com.
“Here in Germany I want to play plenty of minutes and pick up experience in a strong league. In France there are perhaps three or four big teams, whereas in Germany there are not only more big teams, but the smaller teams are also much more competitive than the smaller teams in France. You have to be on top of your game every single second in Germany, and physicality also plays a bigger role.”
With French team-mate Jean Philippe Gbamin also earning rave reviews, Mainz certainly have the talent at the disposal to aid them in their fight to avoid the dreaded drop.
The high level shown in his first Bundesliga season has however already stirred the interest of other clubs. Arsenal, with former Borussia Dortmund scout Sven Mislintat now on their staff, have been strongly linked with a move for Diallo as a long-term replacement for the ageing Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny.
The immediate future will see Abdou Diallo trying to keep Mainz in the Bundesliga, but the long-term future for the talented Frenchman, who has inherited Jürgen Klopp’s number four shirt at the Opel Arena, surely lies at bigger club. For now though Bundesliga fans, enjoy the talent of the Mainz number four Abdou Diallo.
Read more on Diallo, who made our All-Hinrunde Third Team
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