Michael Cuisance became the 10th Frenchman to turn out for Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga when he made his debut against Mainz on Matchday 3. But just how big a talent is the stylish midfielder?
bundesliga.com takes a closer look…
Hernandez and Pavard were big-money recruits and FIFA World Cup winners with France, after all, while an instantly recognisable star like Coutinho linking up with Bayern – the day after Cuisance did – was always going to grab the headlines.
Watch: A closer look at Bayern’s summer signings
Cuisance, though, is clearly highly thought of. If not, then the record German champions would not have signed the former Borussia Mönchengladbach player to a five-year contract shortly after his 20th birthday in August.
“In his first season at Gladbach, ‘Mika’ was the player of the season,” noted sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic, who revealed that Bayern had been tracking the youngster’s performances for a couple of years.
“Our opinion is that in the possession game that we play, he can develop further, fulfil his potential and improve and strengthen our team.”
Cuisance had two assists and nine starts in 24 appearances for Gladbach during his first year in the Bundesliga, but he was in the starting eleven for only one of his 11 league appearances last season.
The skilful central midfielder has over 50 caps for various France youth teams, however, and perhaps it was his performances at international level that convinced the reigning Bundesliga champions that he was worth buying.
Salihamidzic said that Cuisance was outstanding at the 2018 UEFA European Under-19 Championship – when he helped France to the semi-finals – and his efforts at this summer’s FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland also caught the eye.
The Strasbourg native scored twice and had one assist in four starts, playing alongside the likes of Borussia Dortmund’s Dan-Axel Zagadou, Eintracht Frankfurt’s Evan N’Dicka and Bayer Leverkusen’s Moussa Diaby. The French looked set to reach the quarter-finals of that tournament when they led late on in their round of 16 match, but a double from Hannover’s Sebastian Soto helped the USA win 3-2.
While U21 internationals like Arsenal midfielder Matteo Guendouzi, Celtic striker Odsonne Edouard and RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano are also excelling, Cuisance could be the next star to truly break out from the French youth set-up.
Having spent time with his local club, he joined Nancy early in his teens, soon to follow Barcelona defender Clement Lenglet in moving on to bigger things after coming through the academy there. A playmaker with great vision for a forward pass or through ball, Cuisance’s hunger to succeed left a lasting impression on some of the coaches he worked with in the north-east of France.
“He’s the strongest I saw pass through, even if you can’t be sure how things will develop,” Jean-Robert Foucher told L’Est Républicain after Cuisance joined Bayern.
“But I knew all the same that he would be a professional… his game intelligence, his desire, his determination. He was capable, for example, of changing his decision [on the ball] at the last second. But he worked really hard to get to that point.”
Brought to Germany at the age of 17 from the French second tier in May 2017, Cuisance signed his first professional contract with Gladbach. At the time Foals sporting director Max Eberl said the club were delighted to get him, since the race to land the top young talents in European football had become fiercely competitive.
Bayern teammate Robert Lewandowski remembers watching Cuisance from the sidelines at a pre-season tournament, not long after the midfielder had linked up with Gladbach.
“He’s a young player with huge potential,” he said when news of Cuisance’s move to Bayern broke.
“I didn’t know him at the time but I thought ‘this kid has a good future in front of him’.”
Lewandowski’s instinct was right. Thanks to his creativity and calmness on the ball, Cuisance was voted Player of the Season by Gladbach fans at the end of the 2017/18 campaign.
He was rewarded with an improved contract and – while for various reasons his second year was more difficult – the Foals were desperately disappointed to lose him.
“I know that it’s a big step for me, but I feel ready,” Cuisance said after pledging his future to Bayern.
Described by Salihamidzic as being courageous and having great mental strength, the new signing had been in high demand. Soon after moving to Niko Kovac’s team, Cuisance told French radio station RMC that all the top French clubs had enquired about him in the close season.
As former Gladbach teammates like Christoph Kramer and Lars Stindl have pointed out, though, the midfielder is hugely ambitious. That’s why the prospect of competing for a starting place with senior internationals like Corentin Tolisso, Thiago, Leon Goretzka, Javi Martinez and Joshua Kimmich did not put him off.
“Honestly I didn’t necessarily think about it,” Cuisance told RMC. “When I was aware of the interest, the project that Bayern had planned with me, I said straightaway ‘let’s go for it’.
“Beyond that, competition is part of the game and, for me, training with great players and playing with great players can only help for the rest of my career.”
The 20-year-old, who is comfortable in any midfield position, cites French legend and current Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane as his idol. There are certain similarities between the two, with both players graceful and inventive on the ball. Cuisance, though, is predominantly left footed.
“He has a really good left foot – there’s music in it,” said Salihamidzic.
Being the only left-leaning player in the midfield mix could, of course, play in Cuisance’s favour – but he knows that any game time at Bayern will be hard earned.
“That can maybe be an advantage,” Cuisance told RMC when asked whether being left footed could help him stand out in a star-studded crowd. “But I’ll have to work hard every day, and then I think it will happen naturally over time.”
Cuisance is one of five French players in Bayern’s first-team squad, along with Hernandez, Pavard, Tolisso and Kingsley Coman. The latest arrival made his debut when he came on for the final 13 minutes of the 6-1 demolition of Mainz, and vowed that there is plenty more to come.
“This is just the beginning,” he said afterwards.