Humbled by les Monegasques in the 2016/17 Champions League last-16, Manchester City spent big on Benjamin Mendy and Bernardo Silva. Chelsea snatched Tiémoué Bakayoko. Kylian Mbappé moved to Paris Saint-Germain for £166million. The following year, Fabinho completed a switch to Liverpool.
More recently, the Stade Louis II has been a dumping ground for Premier League cast-offs. Bakayoko has returned to his old stomping ground while Cesc Fàbregas is winding down a fine career in the principality. Islam Slimani and Adrien Silva have been loaned from Leicester City too.
Who is Fodé Ballo-Touré?
Monaco aren’t the force they were in 2016/17. Powered by Mbappé, Radamel Falcao, Thomas Lemar and Silva, they stunned PSG to win Ligue 1. Even so, their squad is packed with household names including Gelson Martins, Wissam Ben Yedder, Keita Baldé and Aleksandr Golovin.
You’d be forgiven, then, for overlooking Ballo-Touré, a 23-year-old product of Paris Saint-Germain’s academy who has only been a Monaco player since last January.
Born in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine in the north-central region of France, 15 miles outside Paris, Ballo-Touré began his career in the capital. He only featured for PSG’s B team between 2014 and 2017 before leaving on a free.
Lille, then under the auspices of Marcelo Bielsa, picked Ballo-Touré up on a free transfer that summer. He played regularly across the next season-and-a-half before Monaco paid €11million mid-season to ward off relegation.
Les Monegasques were successful – only after former boss Leonardo Jardim replaced Thierry Henry – and Ballo-Touré has gone from strength-to-strength.
Let’s get it out in the open: Ballo-Touré is great fun to watch. He is quite wiry, 5ft 10ins tall and every inch the modern full-back in his athleticism – blending pace and power to great effect.
As such, he bounds up and down the left-hand side for fun, leaving defenders in his wake. Capable of going down the line by knocking the ball ahead and charging onto it, or driving inside to open up space, Ballo-Touré’s engine and quick feet make him a constant threat. Once he gets going, he’s very hard to knock off the ball.
In Ligue 1 this season, he’s averaged 3.6 dribbles per 90 with 2.2 successful. On top of that, Ballo-Touré averages 2.7 progressive runs per 90. According to Wyscout’s glossary, a run is considered progressive if:
…the distance before the starting point and the last touch of the player is:
- at least 30 metres closer to the opponent’s goal if starting and finishing points are in their own half
- Or, 15 metres closer to the opponent’s goal if starting and finishing points are in different field halves
- Or, 10 meters closer to the opponent’s goal if starting and finishing points are in the opponent’s half
The other thing Ballo-Touré does a lot is cross the ball. He attempts 3.05 per 90, of which roughly one connects with a Monaco player. Given the amount of time he spends in advanced areas and the volume of crosses he delivers, this is an underwhelming return.
Crossing is something the French youth international needs to work on. His delivery is erratic, at best, and although some of his better crosses have been tarnished by poor finishing, he regularly overhits the ball or misses his team-mates entirely.
As such, he’s yet to record an assist in Ligue 1 this season. That metric can be misleading though. Even if a player lays on a high number of chances, they could be let down by poor finishing. By Ballo-Touré’s expected assists (xA) total for the season is just 0.05. So he’s not even creating high-value opportunities for Monaco.
On the defensive side, his pace is an asset. That’s because his positioning isn’t the best and he is susceptible to being caught too high up the field, leaving space in behind. He wins most foot races but can be clumsy when running towards his own goal, particularly as he doesn’t always get tight enough.
When he is tight, he’s strong, tenacious and a good tackler. Of the 6.6 defensive duels Ballo-Touré contests per 90, he wins 3.6. His 4.15 interceptions are a good sign too.
Should Chelsea sign Ballo-Touré?
Alonso is a far better going forward than defensively, while his knack for goalscoring is akin to that of a centre-forward. Emerson, meanwhile, is far less of a threat going forward but a more reliable defender. In an ideal world, Lampard would find someone who can perform both roles.
Whether or not that’s Ballo-Touré is open to debate. The Monaco No.2 has qualities with and without the ball. But it would be wrong to say he’s better offensively than Alonso or more defensively sound than Emerson.