When trying to present to you some of the most interesting young talents in football, our focus was lured by a talented French center-back, AS Monaco’s Benoit Badiashile.

Benoit Badiashile has yet to turn 19, but he can already count 50 games in Ligue 1 with Monaco. He debuted when he was still underage: Thierry Henry was the one bringing him to the first team, and it only seemed right. At such a young age, Badiashile’s body was already forged to play at the highest levels. He’s 1.94m tall, he has strong legs, impressive acceleration and he’s very strong in 1v1 situations.

His physical gifts were the most obvious sign of his predestination. Other than the fact he played in every youth national team, it’s only natural to talk about Badiashile as one of the best young defenders in world football, even if this contrasts with all of the problems he had in Ligue 1 so far.

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On his debut, in November 2018, Monaco lost 4-0 to PSG and Cavani, that played in his zone, scored a hattrick: not the easiest debut one can have at that level. Since that day, Badiashile started to make mistakes with a certain regularity. The last one came during the game against Lille last February when he missed an easy back-pass, allowing Loic Remy to find himself in front of the goal. In the same period, he tried too hard to build-up the play from the back, misplacing a pass and leaving the opponent free in front of the goal. Both mistakes reflect the problems he’s facing today.

Nevertheless, Jardim insisted on him. He’s not a regular starter – both Marigal and Glik played more than him – but he had 16 caps this season, before the lockdown. Truth to be told, when he doesn’t make mistakes, Badiashile instils great confidence among defenders. He always plays with his head up, he’s aggressive when he tries to anticipate, but not too exuberant – at least, less than other young French defenders like Konaté or Simakan. He has a clear-headed ball distribution and a good left foot. On his Instagram profile, he only has two photos: one of them has a quote of him saying “I’m very confident of my skills”. Then, sometimes, he loses his focus. His looseness, sometimes, becomes negligence. This is something a center-back should never have.

Today, mental skills seem like Badiashile’s greatest limit. It’s not a lesser limit, but in the long run, it can be compensated by his overall skills. At Monaco, he’s used to playing in a high defensive line, with a lot of space behind him. He always tries to anticipate and, most times, his readings are well-timed. His constant attempt to anticipate may be a need: when the attacker manages to get the ball, he can get into trouble in the 1v1. When he manages to put his body on the opponent he wins the duel almost every time, otherwise, he has problems. Against Lille, Ikoné managed to avoid his marking and, getting the ball on the wing with a lot of space ahead, he turned Badiashile crazy (to be honest, we’re talking about one of the best dribblers in Europe).

In that situation too, he seems to have a problem of focus and mental strength. When he started his experience in the first team, these problems were compensated by the fact he played in a 3-men defense, where he was more free to express his talents. In anticipating opponents and playing aerial duels, Badiashile already has a very high level (he wins 65% of them), as in his ball control.

He’s the player who plays more balls every 90 minutes in the Monaco squad. When he’s on the pitch the build-up starts from his left foot. He lacks the sensitivity of a central midfielder, like OM’s Kamarà, but he rarely takes the wrong choice with the ball, efficiently alternating long and short balls. He’s the fifth-best Ligue 1 center-back for progressive passes.

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Last autumn, it seemed like all the best European clubs were already interested in him and that’s why Monaco renewed his contract until 2024 last December. There have been many rumors about Napoli’s interest in him, that could be a possible replacement for Koulibaly.

Today, Badiashile still pays with a lack of experience and focus that are hard to accept in that position, but he also has all the skills necessary to be a modern defender. His discontinuity is the result of this duplicity: there are games in which he seems capable of dominating the defensive line, with and without the ball; others when he seems at the opponents’ mercy. Monaco, though, already proved to have great faith in him and looks like he is in the best place where he can patiently craft his game.