Joining the likes of Dan-Axel Zagadou, Dayot Upamecano, Ibrahima Konate and Nordi Mukiele in leaving France to join the Bundesliga to take the next stage in their development, Tanguy Nianzou is the latest young French defender to move over the French-German border.
bundesliga.com has the lowdown on the next gem in Bayern Munich's treasure chest...
Club: Bayern Munich
Country: France (U18 caps)
Born in Paris to Ivorian parents, Tanguy Nianzou Kouassi grew up just south of the French capital in Epinay-sous-Senart. He joined his first club, Epinay-Athletico, at the age of six. After stints with Senart-Moissy – where future Bayern teammate Kingsley Coman began his career – and Fontainebleau, he was snapped up by Paris Saint-Germain in 2016, aged 14. It didn't take him long to climb the ladder: by 2018/19, he was a key member of Thiago Motta's U19 team and was named captain by the former PSG and Italy midfielder on more than one occasion, despite being two years younger than his teammates.
PSG first-team coach Thomas Tuchel soon got wind of Nianzou's potential, and the ex-Borussia Dortmund boss handed him his senior debut in December 2019. A centre-back by trade, the versatile 17-year-old nevertheless came on in defensive midfield for the injured Idrissa Gueye, and helped the French champions secure a 3-1 win over Montpellier. Four days later, he was handed a shock start in the UEFA Champions League clash with Galatasaray, again in midfield. Unfazed by both the size of the occasion and an unfamiliar position, he put in a remarkably assured performance at the Parc des Princes, going off to a standing ovation as PSG eased to a 5-0 win. At 17 years and 184 days, he had just become the youngest-ever PSG player to make a Champions League appearance.
The teen sensation continued to get first-team opportunities after the winter break, writing his name into the history books again in January's French League Cup semi-final win over Reims. Not only did he become the club's third-youngest goalscorer - netting for the first time in his career at 17 years and 7 months old - it also happened to be PSG's 4,000th goal in all competitions. Voted the PSG youth academy's Player of the Year in 2019, he also helped the France U17s finish third at the FIFA U17 World Cup in Brazil, playing every minute of the tournament and scoring in the quarter-final win over Spain.
In total, Nianzou made 13 senior appearances for PSG, also scoring a quickfire brace – both headers – in their 4-4 league draw with Amiens in February 2020. Boasting a reputation as one of the best young defenders in Europe, he should have no problem settling in at Bayern, where there are already five Frenchmen on the books: Coman (another PSG graduate), Corentin Tolisso, Benjamin Pavard, Lucas Hernandez and Michael Cuisance.
Plays a bit like: Mats Hummels
He still has a long way to go to match Dortmund defender Hummels when it comes to experience - let alone trophies - but Nianzou has plenty in common with the six-time Bundesliga champion and FIFA 2014 World Cup winner. Both are elegant, ball-playing centre-backs, and Nianzou already stands out for his maturity and how comfortable he looks in possession - not many teenagers kick off their senior career with a confident display in the Champions League, after all.
Nianzou also shares Hummels' aerial prowess. His former coach at Fontainebleau, Kevin Menier, described his heading game as "absolutely incredible" – and Amiens found that out the hard way in their barnstorming eight-goal thriller with PSG, when the 6'2" Nianzou nodded in from successive corners. His strength in the air is also a defensive asset, of course, just as it is for Hummels – the 6'3" BVB centre-back has won a superb 70 per cent of his aerial challenges in the Bundesliga this term, and his tally of 120 duels won is the sixth-highest in the division. At the other end of the pitch, the 31-year-old has scored over 20 headed goals throughout his career, including the all-important quarter-final winner against France on the way to lifting the World Cup in Brazil.
Nianzou also looks set to follow in Hummels' footsteps as one of the best "quarterbacks" in world football. The 18-year-old isn't shy about trying to pick out a long ball, especially when sitting in front of the defence. His impressive passing range means he can easily spread play forward or wide, helping to put his attacking teammates on the front foot. When he gets to Bayern, he'll also be able to take notes from another long-ball specialist: Hummels' former partner-in-crime Jerome Boateng. As for rivalling the Dortmund man's CV - Nianzou has already claimed one league title at PSG, France aren't a bad footballing nation, and silverware is all but guaranteed at the Allianz Arena…
Did you know?
Nianzou spent two years doing something at 11 years old which France legend Lilian Thuram and RB Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku had also done in the past. After training during the week with the sports association of Provins, Nianzou would travel over 50 kilometres (31 miles) to go and play with Fontainebleau on the weekends. An unusual situation that lasted two years, before Nianzou joined the ranks of PSG.
His Fontainebleau coach, Kevin Menier, said: "He was the only player born in 2002 on my team. He was already as good, if not better than the players born a year earlier that I had. Beyond his technical and athletic quality both being above average, he had a big maturity and was predestined to evolve at the highest level."
What they're saying
"I was expecting that kind of performance from him, he's a top player. He has a lot of qualities and a big personality. I had absolutely no doubts about the fact that he was ready to play, he did a great job and showed, in the Champions League, what we expected from him." – PSG coach Thomas Tuchel after Nianzou's Champions League debut against Galatasaray.
“In our eyes, he’s one of the greatest prospects in Europe. His best position is at centre-back but can play in a number of positions. We’re sure he’ll have a great career with us and is a real reinforcement.” - Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic