Bayern Munich newcomer Corentin Tolisso has all the makings of a complete box-to-box midfielder. - © © imago
Bayern Munich newcomer Corentin Tolisso has all the makings of a complete box-to-box midfielder. - © © imago

What French whizz-kid Corentin Tolisso will bring to Bayern


In 22-year-old French midfielder Corentin Tolisso, Bayern Munich are getting their hands on a future Bundesliga star who could well give his more established teammates something to think about.

Even with Spanish maestro Xabi Alonso hanging up his boots at the end of 2016/17, the future of Bayern's midfield looked well assured. With the world-class duo of Arturo Vidal and Thiago already in place, Joshua Kimmich and Renato Sanches waiting in the wings, and Sebastian Rudy set to join from Hoffenheim, Carlo Ancelotti appeared to have his board set up nicely for the coming season.

Enter Tolisso. The up-and-coming Frenchman has just signed a deal through to 2022, and will add another dimension to Bayern's formidable midfield arsenal. He could even find himself vying for a place in the record champions' starting XI, as explains...

A Swiss Army knife

While he has emerged as a talented box-to-box midfielder with Lyon in recent seasons, Tolisso has played just about everywhere on a football pitch. He began life as a forward with boyhood club Stade Amplepluisien, before dropping deeper with FC du Pays de l'Arbresle and even briefly playing as a defender in the Lyon youth set-up.

In his first full season with Lyon, coach Hubert Fournier successfully deployed him as a left-back, a right-back, a centre-back, a defensive midfielder and a central midfielder, and Tolisso admits that the latter positions are where he feels most comfortable.

"I like to play in midfield, in front of the defence," he told France Football after the 2014/15 season, in which he played all 38 Ligue 1 games for Lyon. "I like having the game in front of me, and I have greater qualities for that role. That being said, I also like playing further up as a No. 8, because it allows me to get forward and score goals. I really like scoring."

An eye for goal

Indeed, Tolisso's ability in front of goal could be the X-factor when it comes to Ancelotti's team selection next term. The 22-year-old plundered no fewer than 14 goals in all competitions for Lyon last season, a new career high, and showed that he doesn't shy away from the big occasions. He was one of just two players to score against Juventus in the UEFA Champions League group stages, and grabbed a vital equaliser against Besiktas in the UEFA Europa League quarter-final first leg.

In a curious twist, it was Tolisso's goal-scoring prowess against Lyon that first brought him to the club's attention. When he was just 11, he struck a brilliant hat-trick for L'Arbresle against OL in a famous 4-4 draw, and two years later he found himself on their books. Another strange coincidence: L'Arbresle happens to be the birthplace of Jean-Michel Aulas, the Lyon president, and Remi Garde, the coach who would later hand him his first Ligue 1 start.

Ancelotti will therefore be delighted to have another goal-scoring midfielder at his disposal, having relied predominantly on the irresistible Robert Lewandowski (30) and the evergreen Arjen Robben (13) for Bundesliga goals in 2016/17. Kimmich (6), Thiago (6) and Vidal (4) all played their part, but Tolisso will be keen to give them a run for their money.

Watch: All 30 of Robert Lewandowski's 2016/17 Bundesliga goals

Silk and steel

Tolisso is part of a generation of talented youngsters to have come through Lyon's youth system, though it took him a little longer than Alexandre Lacazette, Nabil Fekir and Clement Grenier to grab a share of the spotlight.

"My son is down-to-earth and discreet," his father Vincent once told So Foot. "He plays football because it makes him happy, he doesn't play in order to be the centre of attention. People don't really talk about players like him, the unsung heroes, but that doesn't bother me at all. Humility should always come first, and it's a quality to hold on to for as long as possible."

That was in September 2015. Tolisso's status has changed considerably in the intervening years, but he essentially remains the unassuming player his father described. Not unlike his illustrious compatriot Zinedine Zidane, though, the new Bayern man has shown that there is a steely core to go along with his silky touch.

Watch: Alonso's opening-day arrow, plus nine more A-udacious Bundesliga strikes

After run-ins with Fekir and Lindsay Rose on the training ground, Tolisso made headlines for the wrong reasons after a wild challenge on Fabien Lemoine during a heated derby against Saint-Etienne in February. The tackle earned him the first red card of his career and a two-match ban, as well as teaching him a valuable lesson.

"I totally lost my cool at the end of the game," he admitted to RMC Sport. "It was a terrible tackle and I'm really sorry, I want to tell Fabien how much I regret it. It will never happen again in my career."

That derby incident aside, Tolisso is generally lauded for his on-field temperament, having only picked up a single yellow card during the rest of the 2016/17 Ligue 1 season. He is also conscientious off the pitch, having passed his baccalaureate in social and economic sciences in 2013.

"School was always the priority," Vincent explained. "Because football is fleeting and full of uncertainties. He promised me that he would get his baccalaureate, and on the day that he did, I was just as happy as when he signed his first professional contract."

The future's bright

Along with Kimmich (22), Sanches (19) and Kingsley Coman (21), Tolisso clearly represents the future of Bayern Munich. Alonso and Philipp Lahm have said their farewells, and it will only be a matter of time before Robben and Franck Ribery also call time on their glittering careers. With less emphasis on youth than rivals Borussia Dortmund, the five-time reigning champions are still determined to keep the silverware flowing in year in, year out, and that means bedding in the next generation of stars.  

As well as joining fellow France international Coman at Säbener Strasse, Tolisso will have the opportunity to learn from two of the most iconic French players in Bayern history. Ribery and new assistant coach Willy Sagnol are both bona-fide club legends, with a total of 12 Bundesliga titles, nine DFB Cups and two Champions League crowns between them. Perfect mentors for a player with some serious ambitions.

"I want to play in the Champions League and go to the World Cup," Tolisso told L'Équipe at the end of last season. "To get to Russia I need to play in the biggest games. And the biggest games are in the Champions League."

Watch: Arjen Robben's 2016/17 highlight reel

With Lyon finishing fourth in Ligue 1 last season and reaching the Europa League, a move away from the club was the only way Tolisso would have a chance to take on the European elite once again. While he admitted he "wasn't ready" to take the plunge when Napoli came knocking at Lyon's door last summer, the siren song of the 26-time Bundesliga champions proved too powerful to resist.

"I had a wonderful time at Lyon, for which I'm very thankful. Now I'm really pleased to be at the best team in Europe," Tolisso said on Bayern's official website. "I have great aims for my time at Bayern, and this is a great day for me."

Tolisso will also be hoping that success with Bayern will lead to a greater role within the France national team. So far he has only won a single cap – in a 2-0 friendly loss to Spain in March – but he was included in the squads for the recent friendly wins over Paraguay and England, and with a year to go until the World Cup in Russia he is clearly on Didier Deschamps' radar.

On the one hand, a prolific and versatile midfielder with an eye for goal – and on the other, the biggest club in Germany, with a voracious appetite for success. It should be a match made in heaven. 

Andy Smith

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