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Website 14 April 2022, 18:00

His development, his goal for France... A special interview with Aurélien Tchouameni

His development, his goal for France... A special interview with Aurélien Tchouameni
Ahead of the big match of the 32nd round of Ligue 1 against Rennes (Friday, 9 p.m.), the AS Monaco midfielder spoke frankly in an new interview for asmonaco.com.

You might hear him called “The Octopus!” It’s a nickname to honor his industry in the heart of midfield with AS Monaco, as it is with the French national team. Having become a part of the Rouge et Blanc team system over the last year and a half, Aurélien Tchouameni has been improving ever more as the months pass. His inspirations, his work on and off the pitch, his goal with France… The Monegasque number 8 spoke at length before the team’s big match against Rennes this Friday (9 p.m.). Here’s his original interview with asmonaco.com.

Hello Aurélien. To begin with, what have you done on a daily basis, outside the team’s training sessions, to reach this very high level?

When I start something, I try to be the best I can be. I aspire to be one of the best players in Europe in my position. So I work every day to achieve this goal. This involves working at home or at the Club, apart from the team’s training sessions. We are lucky here at AS Monaco to have very good infrastructure with the Performance Center, which allows us all to optimize our training. For example, I’m just coming out of a core training session with the Club’s physical trainer. These are things I try to do regularly, especially for injury prevention. Today I am getting through matches without having any physical issues, so that means that I am working well on the side, with the physiotherapists, and the staff, in particular to avoid muscular problems. At home I also have a gym, and I sometimes put in a few more sessions, like last night (this interview was conducted on April 7), always under the direction of the team’s staff.

Do you also work on the mental, psychological aspects of your play?

This is an area that is very important to me. I have become aware of this gradually since making my professional debut. I started working on this aspect in Bordeaux with Cédric, the psychological trainer who is here today. Before each match, we discuss the objectives of the game, everything that happens around it, and the management of one’s emotions as well. Being focused on what you can control is very important and it helps me a lot.

I try to jot down a bit of everything. I have quotes from top athletes or great personalities in the world. Quotes that are inspiring to me, and with which I feed myself. I also write down my goals for each match, depending on our opponent or the context.
Aurélien TchouameniOn what goes into his notebook

What does a player like Karim Benzema (scorer of a hat-trick the day before against Chelsea in the Champions quarterfinal first leg) inspire in you, somoene who is in top form at age 34?

What strikes me in these kind of players is their longevity at the highest level! It’s not a given for everyone to perform so much on the pitch at that age, like Karim Benzema or Luka Modric does, who is 36 years old I believe, and who are still delivering great performances in the Champions League. We can also talk about Cristiano Ronaldo, who continues to be at the top level, despite his advanced age. It is the fruit of their labor, and the fact of realizing very early that one’s body is a very important thing. It’s a product of nutrition, sleep, all the work one can do at the club, but also away from it. You have to optimize your chances of playing at the highest level for as long as possible, and they’ve manage to do it! So it’s a source of motivation for a lot of players.

In a press conference, you have talked about a notebook that you keep. What do you write in it?

I try to jot down a bit of everything. I have quotes from top athletes or great personalities in the world. Quotes that are inspiring to me, and with which I feed myself. I also write down my goals for each match, depending on our opponent or the context. Whether with club or country, each match has its own specifics, and I try to be as diligent as possible on that. I’m highly observant; everything I hear, everything I see. I have goals looking towards the end of the season, but also goals for my career. So it’s something that I treasure in my phone.

We know your passion for the NBA. What do you look for in this sport, and who is a role model for you on a daily basis?

I think I was drawn to the NBA through American culture. From a very young age, I immediately got hooked on the United States, whether through its great athletes, great musicians or figures in the history of this great country, such as Martin Luther King, Barack Obama… As soon as there is something to learn about this country, starting with learning English, I do it. I started very early, because I wanted to understand the meaning of the music I was listening to. But to return to the NBA, the players are obliged to have a good diet, to live a clean life, because they sometimes play every other day. When you are playing back-to-back like this, you have to impose this requirement on yourself, and that’s what I try to translate to my sport.

When I see that Youssouf is really playing well and making good forward passes, maybe I will sit back a little more. I will be positioned more in front of the defense, as a sentinel, and let Youssouf look for good passes to break the lines, to be more offensive.
Aurélien TchouameniOn his partnership with Youssouf Fofana

In the history of AS Monaco, there have been lots of great midfielders. Which ones have inspired you or are close to the way you play?

Quite honestly, there are many that I have not had the opportunity to see play. But as far as my generation is concerned, I of course followed AS Monaco in 2017 with Fabinho, Tiémoué Bakayoko and João Moutinho. When I think of the recent history of the Club, it is this great team that I think of. We often talk about it with Djibril (Sidibé) by the way, who was a Ligue 1 champion with them. But actually I watched the Fabinho-Bakayoko duo a lot, because at that time I was just starting out as a professional. I watched them a lot and today they are having extraordinary careers.

What exactly does the Club represent for you, a young player who is coming up, playing for an institution that has been eight times champion of France?

AS Monaco are a very big French club with a wonderful history! Very great players have played here.. When I was at Bordeaux and heard of the Club’s interest in me, I did not hesitate for a second to come here to the Principality. I knew it could help me progress, with top facilities, and being a top project for young players. So today I am very happy to be part of this great club.

It's a real point of progress once again, because when you have a yellow card at the start of the match, you have to adjust your game until the end to allow your team to win and maintain a high level of performance.
Aurélien TchouameniOn dealing with playing with a booking

To come back a little bit to the pitch, Youssouf Fofana, your partner in the midfield, recently spoke of “the zone”. Can you tell us more about that?

(He smiles) It’s funny that he talks about it, because on the pitch we don’t even need to talk about it among ourselves. In fact there are matches where I will feel that Youssouf is really in his game and vice versa, so we adapt our positions accordingly. I don’t know if people who watch the matches can see this, but when I see that he is really playing  well and making good forward passes, maybe I will sit back a little more. I will be positioned more in front of the defense, as a sentinel, and let Youssouf look for good passes to break the lines, to be more offensive. But it depends on the form of each of us, we can adapt, and that’s why our partnership works very well. I think it shows in the stats! And when he speaks of “zone”, indeed when there is one of us who feels more confident, we have the intelligence to say to ourselves: “Today is his day, it is up to me to ensure that he feels as best as possible and to free him in a certain way of his defensive tasks.”

Playing recently against Amiens in the Coupe de France, the coach left you on the pitch with a yellow card to push you to adapt your game. What can you tell us about this episode?

It is a part of progression that I must work on, try to avoid picking up cards quickly in a match. It happened to me against Amiens, against Strasbourg recently and in Bordeaux as well, even if I think the two yellows were really severe in the moment. But this allows me to progress in managing the way I approach my duels, and to integrate that knowledge as I will have to defend differently. At that point I have to be even more intelligent in reading the game, in my anticipation, and to avoid getting stuck in as much as possible, putting myself in a position in which I can make a mistake. It’s a real point of progress once again, because when you have a yellow card at the start of the match, you have to adjust your game until the end to allow your team to win and maintain a high level of performance.

We are going to talk a little bit about the France team now. You scored your first goal in Blue recently against Ivory Coast, how that feel?

It’s a great memory, because it was a great match, against a good team, in a Stade Vélodrome with a great atmosphere. We were doing well, but it was level on the scoreboard. It was icing on the cake, I am lucky to be able to score this goal at the very end of the match, in a magnificent atmosphere. It is a memory that will remain with me forever, because it is the first, and I hope that it will bring others. But at least I can say that I scored a goal for France (smiles)!

There is a tradition at each session with the national team, of taking photos on one’s arrival at Clairefontaine. Did you have to watch your style when you joined the team?

(Smiles) Yes always, because it’s an important moment, especially the first time! Now I try to go there with an outfit from my sponsor, so before each training camp I go to the shop with one of my representatives to select the outfits that I will wear at the Château. But it is sure that it is an big deal (smiles)!

Crédits photos : Simon Morcel – FFF

Finally, the World Cup draw took place recently. Is it a dream for you to participate?

I had the chance when I was younger to play in a World Cup with the France U-17s.. It was in India and I have very good memories of it with the teammates I had at the time. I still talk about it today with Maxence (Caqueret), Yacine Adli and even Amine Gouiri. There were very good teams and top players, but we already felt the enthusiasm around such an event. Now, having the opportunity to compete in a World Cup with the senior side is obviously something I have in the back of my mind. But there are still plenty of matches that will happen before this World Cup, so we are thinking about it, but not too much. Other things will happen sooner, but it sure would be nice to play in a World Cup for my country!

And do it with Jules Koundé especially (his friend from the academy in Bordeaux)?

(Smiles) We definitely talk about it together. We wonder how that could be, given our background. It would definitely be nice to win a World Cup together!

Rise. Risk. Repeat.

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