While he seemed to be on the sidelines in the Principality, the young 20-year-old midfielder has established himself as a holder in a Monegasque team which moves to Lorient this Wednesday.
“He is on the right track, but nothing can be taken for granted.” If Monegasque coach Niko Kovac appreciates the unexpected outbreak of Sofiane Diop, 20, he intends to see him continue his progression at a time when ASM must regain victory in Ligue 1 Wednesday in Lorient (7:00 p.m.). The Monegasque career of the attacking midfielder is indeed not what can be described as a long quiet river. Disembarked in June 2018 from Rennes, where he had refused to turn professional, Diop had committed until 2023 in the Principality. It was the time when Vadim Vasiliev debauched future talents at all costs. The time when Monaco piled up young people without protecting them. Symbol of their difficulties and the sword of Damocles remained on the head of each of them, Wilson Isidor, arrived from Rennes at the same time as Diop, is now playing on loan at Bastia-Borgo, 14th in the National.
From loft to owner
“Everyone has their path, their story to write,” comments Diop today, aware of having passed between the drops. “I hope he has the best possible season to come back. I am here now. And I work. ” Thanks to Niko Kovac, who caught him by the end of the sleeve. Certainly, Leonardo Jardim had launched it upon his arrival against Paris, at the 2018 Champions Trophy (4-0 defeat). Certainly, Thierry Henry had then made him discover the Champions League. But within a bloodless team, the then 18-year-old kid alternated the good, sometimes, and the bad, often, before a one-way ticket in reserve as soon as Jardim returned to the helm. He then left last season for a complicated loan to Sochaux where, “less fulfilled”, he “worked a lot on the mind”. In less than three years, Diop has therefore already “gone through all phases with Monaco, including complicated periods. It is learning. But I was able to raise my head and dive into work, ”he says.
“This somewhat atypical course allowed him to gain confidence. He demonstrates the extent of his talent over the matches. It’s good for the team. ”
Aurélien Tchouameni, his teammate at ASM and in the youth teams, explains: “This somewhat atypical course has allowed him to gain confidence. He demonstrates the extent of his talent over the matches. It’s good for the team. I’m happy for him.” At the end of July, however, Diop was still excluded, with the Monegasque “lofters”, understand the undesirable ones. “The club told us that nothing was set in stone,” he recalls. I did what I had to do: work. The coach gave me my chance. I thank him for that. It’s up to me to go on the field, even if at the start I didn’t think of playing so much. ” “Sofiane and Eliot (Matazo) were invested, with a good attitude, says Kovac. If a player is better in training, I give him the opportunity. This is what happened with Sofiane. ”
With four goals in 17 games, Diop has since become essential to the offensive system. “With the ball, he does great things”, recognizes Kovac, who insists: “He is on the right path but nothing is certain. The road is long. He must progress in all areas, especially defensive, where his performance does not always satisfy me. ” Thanks to his summer preparation, Diop nevertheless feels “capable of repeating races and of staying technically clean, even tired”. It is not yet sufficient. Scorer against Saint-Etienne (2-2, 17th day), he was thus taken out at the break of a team reduced to ten. “To be understood, things have to be repeated,” Kovac claims. On a daily basis, Diop therefore learns to press correctly, to protect his side wisely, to get closer to the midfielders to consolidate the team.
He also got involved with an association organizing food distributions in Tours, his hometown. “Sofiane is smart. He questions, wants to understand, inquires. That’s good, and sometimes, more complicated, summarizes Kovac. These ups and downs are the normal process of slow, non-linear growth. ” But the former Bayern coach feels that this work will allow the player to finally emerge. “Sofiane will learn and progress step by step,” he concludes. Experience cannot be bought. You have to live to understand. In two or three years, his qualities will have developed further. “