Ivory Coast defender Odilon Kossounou has had a fine start to his Bayer Leverkusen career. - © imago
Ivory Coast defender Odilon Kossounou has had a fine start to his Bayer Leverkusen career. - © imago
bundesliga

Odilon Kossounou: Who is Bayer Leverkusen's Ivory Coast defender at the Africa Cup of Nations?

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Following an impressive start to life in Germany, Odilon Kossounou has been called up to represent Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations. bundesliga.com profiles the Bayer Leverkusen defender...

Odilon Kossounou

Age: 21
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
Position: Centre-back
Country: Ivory coast (11 caps)

Key stats

Born 4 January 2001, Kossounou was just 15 when he was spotted at Gothenburg's Gothia Cup while representing ASEC Mimosas, his hometown academy from Ivory Coast's financial capital of Abidjan. Swedish outfit Hammarby IF took notice, and Kossounou spent the next three years spending various short-term spells with the club before signing professional terms a week after turning 18 in January 2019. Nine first-team appearances on, Kossounou swapped Sweden for Belgium, when Club Brugge came calling. After two-and-a-half years, two Belgian League titles, one Belgian Supercup glory, 55 games - seven of which came in the UEFA Champions League - and one professional goal, Kossounou was bound for Germany.

He penned a five-year deal with Leverkusen in June 2021. Kossounou made his Die Werkself debut in the DFB Cup first round win over Lokomotive Leipzig on 7 August before featuring in the Bundesliga for the first time on Matchday 1 of the 2021/22 campaign. The 21-year-old made 15 Bundesliga appearances over the course of Leverkusen's Hinrunde campaign, starting 11 of those matches. Kossounou also chalked up four UEFA Europa League outings, making it 20 in total over the course of the first half of his maiden season at the BayArena. That earned him a 2021 European Golden Boy nomination as one of the continent's top-40 players under the age of 21.

Kossounou made his senior international debut in Ivory Coast's 1-1 draw with Belgium on 8 October 2020, and went on to make a full bow for his country against Japan five days later. He has since gone on to register a total of 11 Ivory Coast caps, prior to his call-up for his side's 2022 African Cup of Nations bid, having established himself as a regular for both club and country at just 21.

Plays a bit like: Jerome Boateng

Strong, quick, physical and great with the ball at his feet, Kossounou - who started out life as a midfielder - admired serial Spanish winner Sergio Ramos earlier in his career, but it's former Bayern Munich centre-back Jerome Boateng that is probably more similar in comparison.

As Kossounou told bundesliga.com himself: "Jerome Boateng was a defender I watched a lot. He's someone I watched a lot because I always watched the big teams in the Bundesliga to see how they played. So Jerome Boateng is the player who comes into my head."

Watch: Jerome Boateng's Bundesliga Mixtape

Did you know?

Kossouno's first academy, Asec Mimosa, is Ivory Coast's most famous, with the likes of Yaya Toure, Gervinho, and Emmanuel Eboue all former graduates.

"They're big players, who achieved a lot in their careers," Kossouno told bundesliga.com about his fellow Asec Mimosa alumni. "It's truly an honour to have followed players of this calibre. But I continue to work hard every day in order to try to emulate them and go as far as possible myself."

What they’re saying

"I'm physically strong, I'm quick and I'm able to anticipate what is going to happen. I'm also good with my head." - Kossounou on what he sees as his strongest assets

"He's really quick, agile, strong in the challenge, technically good and still hasn't realised his full potential. He has everything needed to play an important role in our team." - Leverkusen sporting director Simon Rolfes after signing Kossounou

"Odilon Kossounou fits in perfectly with us. A central defender with impressive dynamism and body language plus great potential in the game. He will do very well for us in the next few years." - ex-Leverkusen striker and current sporting managing director Rudi Völler