Loyalty is a very rare trait in modern football. With the chance to join Napoli last summer Corentin Tolisso, a player rumoured to be on Chelsea’s transfer wish-list, took stock of his situation and decided that grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
“I am good in Lyon, I have all my family, all my friends. At 22, I thought it might be a little early,” he told French magazine So Foot. “There was also the fact of playing Champions League games in the Grand Stade, with the club, with all my friends…it was something I wanted to do, there is little better.”
It was the right decision and it’s worked out perfectly for Tolisso. The central midfielder developed further, became a pillar of the OL team, a leader and a player of great maturity at a young age.
Rather than chase the money, Tolisso showed faith and honour to the club that made him and now he is set to be rewarded.
Chelsea are interested in midfielder Corentin Tolisso and will meet Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas in London to discuss a deal [L'Equipe] pic.twitter.com/1JCgNZ5GAu
— Ryan Baldi (@RyanBaldiFW) May 31, 2017
Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has just returned from a trip to London, he teased that he was there to talk about more than the UEFA Women’s Champions League final being held in Cardiff.
Lyon are looking at the possibility of loaning Kurt Zouma next season, bringing the French defender back to Ligue 1. They are also eyeing up Bertrand Traoré, the Burkina Faso centre-forward who has impressed for Ajax in the Eredivsie and in the Europa League, knocking out OL in the process.
Can Corentin Tolisso Improve Chelsea?
When you have the PFA Player of the Year, N’Golo Kanté, the job is to find someone who can contemplate his skillset while adding their own talents and influence.
Bakayoko is an excellent defensive midfielder, someone who can be a destroyer, but with the engine to drive the attack forward and spread the play.
With the Monaco man beside Kante, you would want the former Leicester City star to add more from an attacking perspective when Bakayoko decided to sit deep.
That wouldn’t happen with Tolisso. The Lyon man adds everything that the Manchester United target can do on the ball. He is an excellent passer, with vision to go long, slide balls through the middle and play it simple when needed.
Be it long sweeping passes out wide or intricate one-twos through a defence, Tolisso has both aspects of the game covered.
The France international started the campaign just after his 22nd birthday but in the last 12 months he has matured by more than a year.
After making his Lyon debut in 2013, both in Ligue 1 and the Europa League, he has been asked to play a number of positions throughout the last four years. From full-back, both on the left and right, he’s been a defensive midfielder, a box-to-box runner, No.10 playmaker and even a ‘false nine’ when OL arrived in Marseille without Alexandre Lacazette and Nabil Fekir.
It’s in that No.8 role where Tolisso plays best. He provides those sparks of magic you need when games aren’t going your way. His ability to score and create with either foot is priceless, he is very underrated in the air, with that Frank Lampard-esque timing to make runs into the box and get on the end of crosses.
Tolisso can be everything you want him to be and he will always add something more. Scoring eight times while adding four assists is testament to his all-round game.
Kanté is great at winning possession but with Tolisso on board Chelsea would have someone who can dictate play, show vision and make a huge difference.
Against Caen, Lyon won the ball and quickly handed the baton to the midfielder. As you can see from the images below, he has space in front of him and looks to push the attack forward.
With a number of options in front, similar to what he would have with Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and Pedro, Tolisso still has to pick the right one.
He does and it’s not just to find the best player, his good friend Lacazette, he finds the right option, slipping the ball to Maxwel Cornet and the young Ivorian striker adds the finish.
Where does he add to the Chelsea midfield?
Despite playing for the champions and one of most dominant teams in the Premier League, Tolisso completes more passes than Nemanja Matic and Kanté per 90 minutes. His completion rate is a little lower but that’s to be expected with the number of passes he makes.
Tolisso is much more creative in the final third and makes 0.6 more key passes per 90 than any of the others. While they add more from a defensive stand point, Tolisso can also fulfil that role, which would be backed up by Kanté, but remains free to push on into the attack.
Although, like Bakayoko and Matic, the Lyon youngster has the long stride and running power to beat people off the dribble, he understands that the ball moves quicker than he can and relies on his quick passing and movement to beat opponents.
Tolisso wouldn’t be a like-for-like replacement for Cesc Fàbregas if he moves on, but the 22-year-old is a hybrid between the Spaniard, Matic and Bakayoko. The best of all worlds together in one very talented package.
That’s why Chelsea enquired about him and why Conte would be interested. Tolisso has everything that the Italian had at Juventus with Paul Pogba, Claudio Marchsio and a little bit of Andrea Pirlo too.
Which isn’t to say he is better than these three at this stage. But he has the potential to be as good as them and that’s what Chelsea would be bringing to Stamford Bridge if they can get Tolisso over the line.