- Nationality: French
- Age: 19
- Date of birth: 26/03/2001
- Current Club: AS Monaco
- Career: Limoges (Y), SC Malesherbes (Y), AS Monaco
- Position: Centre Back
- Preferred foot: Left
After joining AS Monaco’s youth set-up at the age of just 15, Benoît Badiashile has gone from strength to strength and has quickly become one of Europe’s hottest defensive prospects despite still only being 19 years of age.
The central defender signed his first professional contract in February 2018 and went on to make his professional debut that same year, making twenty Ligue 1 and two Champions League appearances during the 2018/19 campaign. After a brief stint with the club’s reserves following his initial signature, Badiashile is now a firm part of the first team set up at Monaco.
Despite the incredibly high levels of competition in France’s international camp, he has represented his country at four different youth levels, with the U-19 side the highest age group to date, but it seems a certainty that the national side will be keeping a close eye on his development.
Badiashile had made 16 league starts for Monaco this season prior to the cancellation of Ligue 1, with his team sitting in ninth in the league table. Monaco are in the centre of a huge transitional phase at the moment, having gone from winning the league in 2017 to just avoiding relegation by 2019 and should be looking to find some kind of stability in the coming years.
However, it does not seem certain that Badiashile will remain with them for much longer, with the 19 year old already being linked with several big money moves away despite signing a new contract in December 2019. There is little doubt that Badiashile has a big future ahead of him and it will be interesting to see his career develop over the coming seasons.
Physically, Badiashile is everything you could want from a central defender. The 6’4 Frenchman has a strong build (though he still has some room to grow into his frame in the coming years) to match his obvious aerial presence as well as possessing a good turn of pace when running back towards his own goal. He is fairly agile but could improve upon the speed of his change in direction when keeping up with run of the attacker or standing up to a forward when being driven at with the ball.
The 19 year old rarely seems to tire and has played a decent amount of minutes since breaking into the first team, with no major injuries to date. His strength in duels and shoulder to shoulder challenges make him effective in battles with strikers and his height and aerial ability often allow him to dominate in the air for his team, whilst posing an attacking threat from set pieces.
Badiashile has proven to be comfortable and competent in possession, displaying unprecedented levels of composure for a player of his age in his position. His vision when passing and ability to step out of defence with the ball at his feet have made him a real asset for a team that like to try and play out from the back and rank sixth in the league in possession and accurate passes, and second in progressive passes. He is not afraid to take his time on the ball and is able to step into midfield and find a pass when his team are on top, an important role that allows the midfield players to push on and find space. He has only miscontrolled the ball on four occasions all season, whilst he has been dispossessed by an opposition player just once in the entirety of the 2019/20 campaign according to Opta.
The examples below show Badiashile taking advantage of the space ahead of him to latch on to a pass and look to find a progressive pass in behind the midfield line, almost acting as another deep lying midfielder. It is also worth noting that by stepping up, he gives his team an extra man in the opposition half and in Fig 2. Monaco have four forwards matched up against the back four of Reims.
Badiashile is also consistently accurate with his passing and despite it being understandable if he were to play simple passes and retain possession rather than try to be progressive, he is instead very positive on the ball and looks to find passes that allow his team to move up the pitch. He has an excellent level of vision for such a young defender and is capable of accurately finding teammates over long ranges. As seen in Figures 1 and 2, the 19 year old is able to break the midfield lines, but he can also change the point of the attack or confidently beat an opposition press. These examples display this vision explicitly as he finds lofted passes to effectively switch the point of the attack or progress his team up the pitch instead of just launching the ball up to the striker when under pressure.
The French youth international uses his dominant left foot whenever possible, playing 76.5% of his passes this season with his stronger foot, and this can sometimes hinder him if he is forced to play passes with his right. However, generally when tasked with using his weaker side, he tends to play simple passes to retain possession rather than play his ambitious progressive balls. His radar (Fig. 6) shows how essential he can be to his team’s progression up the pitch, ranking highly in progressive distance, passes into the final third, and long pass completion. He is capable of not only retaining possession under pressure but also providing a base for many of his team’s attacks and is very effective when recycling the ball for his side – collecting loose balls and either playing sweeping passes across the field or sharp passes into the midfielders’ feet in advanced areas.
His technique in the tackle is effective for the most part, however, he is guilty of sometimes being caught on his heels somewhat and could improve upon his balance in 1v1 situations when he is being driven at with the ball. As mentioned earlier, he is tall and strong and these can be great attributes but it also means that he has to be careful not to overcommit as his change in direction and balance can be hindered by his size. His defensive footwork and body positioning are adequate and allow him to make challenges effectively, however, he must be wary not to lunge in or overcommit to tackles and could improve upon this area as he gains more experience.
His overall pace makes him effective in recovery situations if the defence are caught out in behind and his lateral speed allows him to get accross on the cover well and to close down the opponent effectively. These can be vital to preventing his team from conceding, as even if he doesn’t make the tackle himself, he is able to get back to a position from which he can delay his opponent until support arrives. This example of a successful recovery tackle shows how Badiashile can use his speed to keep up with pacey forwards and nullify any direct threat.
It is clear that the young defender is technically gifted in possession, whilst also demonstrating good technique when making recovery tackles. He is still quite raw in a couple of areas and it’s important that he improves upon his balance and anticipation in 1v1 situations, and perhaps looks to become stronger with his weak foot to be even more impressive on the ball.
He demonstrates good levels of awareness and his body positioning helps him to do this. When the ball is in a wide area he makes sure to be at a 45 degree angle so that he can both track the run of the striker and be in a position to cover the area in front of him and attack the ball. He has primarily been partnered by either experienced Poland international Kamil Glik or 26 year old Chilean international Guillermo Maripán this season and therefore has rarely been the primary figure in the defensive set up. Yet, he still plays an important role for his team, even if under the instruction of his teammates at times.
He is able to react well to breaks through the defensive lines and recover effectively (as seen in Figure 7), but he could perhaps look to improve upon his sensing of immediate danger in the penalty area – finding himself caught on the back foot occasionally when the ball drops to an oppositon player or takes a deflection. However, it is likely that this will come with age in a position in which experience is key to the player’s understanding of the game. The example below shows his current capability to snuff out any danger by reading the pass and stepping out of the defensive line to make an interception. Badiashile has made 1.6 interceptions per 90 in Ligue 1 this season, illustrating that he has the awareness and reading of the game to cut out opposition passes.
The youngster’s aerial ability is a big part of his role in the Monaco side, and he is often tasked with challenging for long balls into the striker, whilst the other defenders drop off in order to cover for him or pick up any loose balls or flick ons. He steps out the defensive line less when the ball is on the ground, preferring to maintain his position when being driven at and instead using his pace to cover passes in behind. The team also look to use his height and strength at the other end of the pitch, as Badiashile is sent forward for almost every set piece situation that his team have. Although he has only scored one goal for the club, he can still be effective my making runs towards the front or back post, either drawing defenders with him to create space for teammates, or by winning headers that are guided into dangerous areas for his teammates to attack.
Monaco have changed systems and formations several times throughout the season, utilising a three at the back system 12 times, and a back four on 16 occasions. Therefore the young central defender is capable of adapting to different positions and systems, but primarily likes to operate as the left sided central defender, to suit his dominant left foot, whilst in a back three it gives him the opportunity to step up into more advanced areas with the ball at his feet.
As already covered earlier in the report, the 19 year old displays composure and maturity far beyond his age when in possession. He is strong and aggressive in the tackle but rarely malicious and doesn’t seem to involve himself in scuffles or disputes with opposition players, showing good controlled aggression. He plays with a professional manner and works hard for his team, especially when making lung-bursting recoveries. Some areas that will improve with age are his sense of immediate danger and his anticipation within his own penalty area, but he has all the building blocks to go on to become a top central defender.
Benoît Badiashile certainly has an exciting career ahead of him, but despite signing a new contract in December 2019, there remain several question marks about where his immediate future lies. At just 19 years of age, with two seasons of Ligue 1 experience and no doubts over his physical development, it is no surprise that rumours are circulating about his future, with both big fees and big clubs being mentioned.
Supposedly there is interest from all across Europe, with clubs in his native country such as Rennes and Lyon linked with bids, whilst Bayer Leverkusen, Roma and Valencia are amongst others to have been credited with an interest. The biggest and most common links are with a move to England with Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United all being linked with moves for the defender.
With the Ligue 1 season coming to a close with Monaco sat in 9th position, with no prospect of European football and having finished 17th the season prior to this one, it could be that Badiashile’s head is turned if any concrete offers come in. However, being only 7 months into his new contract and with a fee between £30,000,000 – 40,000,000 being touted for his services (that seems even bigger when the effect of the COVID-19 outbreak on the football transfer market is taken into account), it is also very plausible that he will remain a Monaco player for the 2020/21 campaign.
Based on what I have seen from Badiashile, he has all the tools to be a top defender in any league or country he chooses and with no lack of interest, it would almost appear that his future lies with his personal preference on what will be best for his development.
There is not a doubt in my mind that without any major injuries, Badiashile will go on to become one of the world’s top defenders as his career develops. He already possesses all the physical tools, whilst being comfortable on the ball which can be so important for the modern day centre back. If he can improve in certain small areas of his game, which he is certain to whilst he gains experience, then he will develop into a real talent and I will be very interested to see who is he is playing for come the start of next season.
Stats courtesy of Fbref