Jerome Roussillon (r.) is already proving one of Wolfsburg's best players - in attack and defence - under new coach Bruno Labbadia (l.). - © © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA
Jerome Roussillon (r.) is already proving one of Wolfsburg's best players - in attack and defence - under new coach Bruno Labbadia (l.). - © © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA
Bundesliga

Jerome Roussillon: The Wolfsburg man to challenge Benjamin Mendy and Lucas Hernandez as France’s first-choice left-back

Wolfsburg's summer signing Jerome Roussillon has already made his home in the Wolves' den, and if the flying Frenchman continues to shine, he can expect to challenge Benjamin Mendy of Manchester City and Atletico Madrid's Lucas Hernandez for the title of France's first-choice left-back.

We have all practised our autographs during an idle moment at school, most probably during algebra, but there is one teacher in France who must cherish one of his pupil's dream-filled doodles.

"It was for my Italian teacher. It was to joke with him, he said he would have the oldest autograph of a football star," explained Jerome Roussillon of his very first signature. "I learned Italian after English, but not because I was already thinking about a career in Serie A, just that I thought it might come in handy."

The 25-year-old might now regret he did not opt instead for German after a more significant autograph, the one he penned on the four-year deal he agreed with Wolfsburg this summer.

Watch: Roussillon registers his first Bundesliga assist as the Wolves tame Leverkusen

Brekalo: 'Good to have him behind me'

Not that the language barrier has been nothing the athletic defender cannot hurdle. Though neither can speak the other's mother tongue, personal charisma and body language mean he and fellow full-back William "have a lot of fun". On the pitch, he has little other choice than to let his feet do the talking, and they clearly speak fluently to Josip Brekalo, who has flourished on the left flank with Roussillon to back him up.

"He's very important for my game. I have more options with him. We have played very well together. It's good for me to have him behind me," said the Croat, whose broken German and English help Wolfsburg captain Joshua Guilavogui serve as the duo's translator-in-chief when necessary.

"We understand each other just like that, it's about football intelligence. You know at every moment where your teammate is."

- © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA / Boris Streubel

"He understands he has to keep on running, and when he attacks he makes great runs, he's explosive and uses the ball well. He loves to get forward — and he can defend now as well," explained Michel Der Zakarian, Montpellier coach and former defender who considered stopping opposing forwards his reason to live. "He didn't used to like defending, but it's something he's worked on and that was a necessary step for him." Roussillon concurred: "We love getting forward but we have to defend as well, and that's tough but we're doing it."

After two impressive seasons and a 2017/18 campaign that sparkled in between spells on the treatment table, Wolfsburg were not the only ones to have taken notice with English Premier League sides Leicester City and Crystal Palace as well as the Wolves' northern neighbours Hamburg all linked to the pacy defender.

Enthusiastic at the idea of finally filling a gap in their side that had to be patched up with makeshift solutions last season and spotting a worthy successor to Ricardo Rodriguez, Wolfsburg snared their man and Roussillon has heard the same message from new coach Bruno Labbadia as he did his old boss: defend AND attack.

Watch: The tactics that have the Wolves finally baring their teeth!

- © gettyimages / Sebastien Bozon

"He expects me to set the tempo and put in good crosses, because we have big forwards," explained Roussillon, who gave Labbadia exactly what he wanted in sending over the ball for Wout Weghorst to score in the 3-1 win against Leverkusen on Matchday 2.

Add in a rock-steady 63 per cent 'challenges won' ratio, the fact he has beaten his man with one of every two dribbles attempted, and been clocked at a breakneck 21mph, and Wolfsburg fans should buckle up in anticipation of a thrilling season-long ride fuelled by Roussillon.

"He's already very good. He's made a good impression, his speed stands out," admitted Wolfsburg's sporting director Marcel Schäfer, who should know a quality left-back when he sees one having played that role supremely in 256 Bundesliga matches for the club, notably as part of the thrilling 2008/09 title-winning side.

Schäfer was only capped eight times at senior level by Germany, while Roussillon has yet to pull on the shirt — freshly embossed with a second star — of his country's senior side.

Jeremy Menez, Jeremy Mathieu and Benoit Pedretti are just three of the full-blown France internationals that emerged from Sochaux's youth academy in recent years, and Roussillon may yet become an alumni if he makes the ultimate football graduation.

- © gettyimages / Johannes Simon