Since his arrival from PSG in 2020, Tanguy Nianzou is the latest young Frenchman to flourish in the Bundesliga for Bayern Munich. Featuring within a relentlessly dominant backline filled with French-speaking talent, the sky’s the limit for the 18-year-old.
bundesliga.com has the lowdown on the next gem in the heart of 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. 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.
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 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 become the youngest-ever PSG player to make a Champions League appearance. In total, Nianzou made 13 senior appearances for PSG before joining Bayern for the 2020/21 campaign.
Following his highly-anticipated move to Munich, Nianzou was handed his Bundesliga debut by Hansi Flick as a substitute on Matchday 9 against VfB Stuttgart. He would have to wait until Matchday 28 to return to the pitch after a muscle injury prevented him from featuring throughout the season. He would then wait patiently for first start for the club – in front of 20,000 fans at the Allianz Arena in their 3-2 victory over Cologne on Matchday 2 of the 2021/22 season. The following week, he replaced fellow Frenchman Dayot Upamecano at half time and provided a headed assist to Robert Lewandowski for his team’s fifth goal in their 5-0 triumph of Hertha Berlin. Nine encouraging cameo appearances from the bench ensued, with Bayern sampling his defensive diligence at both centre back and slightly in front of the backline in midfield. His first Bundesliga goal arrived on Matchday 28 of the 2021/22 campaign against Union Berlin. Stepping in for Nicklas Sule at the back, he headed his team’s second of the game – darting through the box to meet Joshua Kimmich’s corner and nod it home in front of a large contingent of red in Munich.
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. Hummels had the occasional stint in defensive midfield in the early part of his career but it remains to be seen whether Nianzou will follow suit. Whilst still at a low sample size, his pass completion rate in the Bundesliga is currently at 91.6 per cent.
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.
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.
He 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. As for rivalling the Dortmund man's CV - Nianzou has already claimed one league title each at PSG and Bayern, with more silverware expected in the near future 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
"He’s incredibly strong in the air, probably our strongest defender in the air, even on offense. Overall, I was very satisfied with Tanguy. You can see that he has a very good character, that he throws everything in. He has an unbelievable aggressiveness and a winning mentality that is extraordinary."- Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann after Nianzou's first Bundesliga goal against Union Berlin
“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
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