Midfielder | AC Milan | Ivory Coast
Reminiscent of a young Michael Essien, unstoppable power is at the core of everything Franck Kessie does. As a youngster, the Ivory Coast international was often deployed as a central defender, which only highlights how naturally strong he is, but unrelenting stamina, strong technique and quality with both feet was soon recognised as well, paving the way for Kessie to emerge as one of European football’s most exciting young box-to-box midfielders.
There’s still an ill-discipline to Kessie’s game - this season he’s averaged more fouls per match than tackles - but he’s as much feared by attackers running at him as opposition defenders when he runs at them. Add in the composure to take the occasional penalty too (he’s scored all six taken so far in senior football), and there’s plenty about the 21-year-old to be excited by; whether he’s at No.8 or No.6, the AC Milan midfielder always has something to offer.
2018 has been…
Solid without being exceptional, although in terms of grading Kessie’s has been influenced by the fact 2017 was really his year, marked by a move to AC Milan and eleven caps (out of a total of 25) for the Ivory Coast. In comparison to a year of illustrious rise up the career ladder, 2018 has been more about holding onto what he already has; he’s maintained his place as a key part of AC Milan’s midfield, he’s featured five times for his national team without defeat and he’s been a fairly consistent performer throughout.
The only thing you can really criticise Kessie for is not showing anything we didn’t really know about him previously, and not making huge progress in terms of growing his strengths or improving his weaknesses. Perhaps though, that’s a little harder for central midfielders to do than those played further forward; due to the nature of his role in the team, it’s going to take something really special for Kessie to be crowned Man of the Match ahead of AC Milan team-mates Suso, Gonzalo Higuain or Hakan Calhanoglu.
Arguably, Kessie decides what kind of midfielder he really wants to be, because traditional box-to-boxers like Michael Essien are a bit of a rare breed - you’re either a playmaker or a play-breaker on the most part these days. Reaching the very top level of the game might well require quashing his offensive instincts somewhat and becoming a more disciplined anchorman.
But at this stage of his career, can we really ask much more of Kessie? He’s at a major club, he’s a key player for his national team, he works hard, he scores the odd goal, and he’s nearly always in the starting XI.
Perhaps, like 2018, the best thing Kessie can do for the next few years is keep doing what he’s doing, while steadily improving his game at an individual level.