18 Midfielder Cesena (on loan from Atalanta)
Mean looking, dominant Ivorian centre back gradually edging his way into midfield. Afforded a start by Hervé Renard during the Ivory Coast’s African Cup of Nations campaign in 2014 whilst still at Abidjan’s Stella Club, Franck Yannick Kessié’s chances of a big move to Europe became a sure thing during ninety minutes of international football. Remaining strong and composed whilst facing far more experienced opponents in Kei and Alhassan Kamara, Kessié was singled out for praise by Didier Drogba who confirmed what many watching already knew; here is the future of African football.
2015 has been…
Getting better by the week. While several others looked on, Atalanta were both bold and far sighted in ensuring that Kessié would join them during the winter transfer window. After seeing their new charge playing in a number of games for La Dea’s Primavera team during the early part of the year, Edy Reja’s side opted to loan him on to Cesena in Serie B in the summer.
Drafted into Massimo Drago’s match day squad in September for a trip to Ascoli, Kessié replaced veteran defender Stefano Lucchini for the final stages with his team defending a 2-0 advantage. The Ivorian made his second Serie B appearance a week later, stepping in for Antonino Ragusa to shore up a goalless draw at Perugia. With Drago suitably impressed, Kessié made his first league start in Italian football playing as a defensive midfielder in Cesena’s 1-0 victory over the equally high flying Livorno, a result which put the Romagna club into a promotion position for the first time this season.
In the matches since, Kessié has grown in stature considerably and become key to his team’s chances of promotion. Indeed a recent defeat for Cesena at home to Bari may well have been averted had he not been selected for international duty that weekend.
The impression that Kessié has made in Serie B this season is notable, especially when you consider that he does not turn 19 until the end of the year. Atalanta’s purchase was always a smart move, but his development at the hands of Massimo Drago - a more than competent developer of young players at Crotone - should not be underestimated. Comparisons are already being made with Yaya Touré and while we’re never ones for indulging in such hyperbole, Kessié is, if anything, a better player at the same age.
Kessié is on loan to Cesena until the end of the season and their fate at this point may well hinge on whether their midfield linchpin remains for the duration. Strong performances rarely go unnoticed and it is of little surprise to hear that Inter have already made firm enquiries as to his availability. It wouldn’t be a surprise to find that Juve and several others do the same.
Franck Kessié is an extremely gifted performer that can stand up to the best as a central defender but also command a game from further forward. The only inevitability right now is that he will be playing in Serie A next season, exactly who for is still to be confirmed.
C+ Yaya II
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