“Tchouameni had a strong personality, he was a leader on the pitch”

Andre Penalva (55 years old) played in the French second division (Chateauroux and Beauvais) in the 90s and when he hung up his shoes, he switched to the bench. He started in the youth academy of Montpellier and later spent 18 years polishing jewelery in Girondins de Bordeaux. Over there formed Aurélien Tchouameni in a key trajectory in his development. Now, after the change of owners of the team of his life, he has turned his life around. “I received several offers from other clubs to continue in the same vein, but I decided to retrain myself. I currently work as a carpenter. Although at the same time I have a volunteer activity at an amateur football club nearby, the American Lège Cap Ferret”, he explains to AS, before going into the matter Tchouameni made his debut on Tuesday in a World Cup and as a basic player in the comeback of Blues to Australia (4-1). He did not lose sight of the Clásico, where the Real Madrid player faced another one of his former pupils, Koundé. “It’s a Pride”, to recognise. And he emphasizes that he is surprised by Aurélien’s enormous progress: “I never thought I would reach the biggest club in the world”.

How was your departure from Girondins after such a long time?

My time at Girondins ended with the arrival of the American group GACP, who bought the club in 2019 from M6 (a television group that owned the Bordeaux team since 1999). The new owners fired all of the club’s top managers at the time.

He had time to train a young Aurélien Tchouameni…

That is, I coached Aurélien for one season, in the under-17 category.

Was he already seen as an unusual footballer?

Honestly, if I’m honest with you, Aurélien was not considered an outstanding player at the time, but he had great potential, he was a very complete footballer who made me think that eventually he could become a professional player over time . . Of course I never imagined that Aurélien would go this far and that he would play for Real Madrid, for the biggest club in the world of football.

Casemiro’s heir who started out as a striker

The RealMadridafraid of PSG, I do not doubt. 80 million euros for Tchouameni and assured the heir of casemiro for the coming years. Due to the express departure of the Brazilian, the biggest ball thief of the five major leagues is his last year in the Monaco as the only pure ‘5’ before Ancelotti. He accepted the challenge and, despite the hesitations in the last piece with maturity, the same one that stands out Andre Penalva in his conversation with AS. But if he is now the ‘stopper’ of the future France and Madrid, their beginnings were very different.

“Aurélien just started changing positions at Girondins under-17 during that season. In the beginning he worked as a second striker, supporting the striker. Then he slowed down and became a midfielder, like a rather offensive interior,” Penalva explained to this newspaper. Tchouameni joined the youth academy The Marines and Whites at the age of 11 and he did it as a striker. “I touched the ball more, so it was a blessing,” the Real Madrid player said in an interview with World Eleven in 2018.

This is how they understand their tendency to look out for enemy land. Ancelotti has already warned him several times. “We have to get used to Aurélien’s movements near the penalty area,” he said after beating Espanyol (1-3) with a phenomenal game from Rouen. His ability to steal balls is beyond question and has been the calling card that opened the doors of the Bernabéu to him. However, Tchouameni, who landed as a natural replacement for Casemiro, has a more powerful profile in the opposite field. His past illustrates why.

Koundé also passed through his hands. Isn’t it?

Yes, but at different times. Aurélien and Jules are two years apart (the blaugrana is 24 and the madridista is 22) and they did not play together in the Under-17 category. They already did it in the Under-19 category and in the reserve team (the subsidiary). At that time, I don’t remember them being so close or friends at such a young age.

On Tuesday they both made their debut in a World Cup, Aurélien also as a starting player. And they met in the last Madrid-Barça.

It’s a fantastic thing, a real pride. As one of the many different coaches they’ve had in their formative years, I feel proud to see them face each other in the top tier of world football, playing for two of the biggest clubs in the world.

What were Tchouameni’s best qualities and which ones did he improve?

His greatest qualities, I would like to tell you, were first of all his very pronounced tactical sense. Second, I must highlight his athletic potential. And I think what improved the most was the technical aspect. He did it with a lot of work.

“The most striking thing at that time was all the confidence he had in himself”

Andre Penalva, in AS

And is there anything that particularly impresses you?

The most striking thing at that moment was all the confidence he had in himself. Very high. You saw in him a lot of serenity and a great dedication to fight for all his causes.

How was he personally?

The truth is that he was a very correct teenager, polite, respectful and quite reserved. I didn’t develop a very close relationship with him, but rather a good working relationship. Aurélien was very intelligent, she had the ability to quickly understand everything that was passed on to her.

“Not really. When I had him under my command as a player with the Girondins, he already had an inappropriate maturity”

André Penalva, on Tchoaumeni’s ability to handle the pressure.

Was he one of the shy ones or the ones in charge?

Aurélien already had a very strong personality, but discreet. He was more of a leader on the field than in the locker room.

You are already a starter for France at a World Cup and for Madrid at the age of 22. Why do you think you’ve come so far at such a young age?

If he has reached this level, it is mainly because his sense of the game is, in my opinion, highly developed. In addition, he has that self-confidence which gives him extra peace of mind.


Tchouameni, accompanied by Konaté and Lucas Hernández, in his World Cup debut against Australia.FEPGetty

In Madrid and France he had to quickly draw lines. Does your ability to handle pressure surprise you?

Not really. When I had him under my command as a player at Girondins, he already had an inappropriate maturity, very early, compared to the rest of his teammates.

I don’t know if they keep in touch. Do you want to send him some message?

I am currently not in contact with him. A message? Well, my message to him would be: Aurélien, I congratulate you on your exceptional sports career, I hope you remain the humble and determined person I met a few years ago. My heartfelt congratulations, I am pleased that I have been able to participate in your development from my humble level.

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