Niko Kovac is delighted to have Aurélien Tchouaméni at Monaco and believes the former Bordeaux midfielder's game has come on in leaps and bounds over the last 12 months.
Tchouaméni, 21, won his first three France caps last month, starting the FIFA World Cup qualifier against Ukraine, and is in Didier Deschamps' squad for the UEFA Nations League finals this week.
Despite having impressed during his first senior international appearances, Tchouaméni faced a nervous wait last Thursday to see whether he'd be called up again. He revealed: "I was preparing for the match against Real Sociedad and I cut short my siesta because I knew at what time the squad would be announced. I learned of my selection by watching TV. Until the coach reveals his squad, you cannot be sure of anything. I wasn't necessarily more confident of being on this list than the last one, so there's always a certain amount of nervous excitement."
Though at fault for Real Sociedad's equaliser in a 1-1 draw in the UEFA Europa League, Tchouaméni has been outstanding for the Principality club this season and was brilliant against former club Bordeaux on Sunday afternoon, scoring the opening goal in a 3-0 victory and also hitting the crossbar.
Signed from Bordeaux in January 2020, Tchouaméni has already made 15 club appearances this season in all competitions to go with his three international appearances. Underlining his importance to Monaco, he's started only one club game on the bench and captained the side against Sturm Graz in mid-September.
After Tchouaméni's star turn against Bordeaux, Kovac commented: "When you see how well he played today, you understand why he's now a French international. We're very happy to have him with us at Monaco. He's becoming a real leader in this team. I help him with that. If he carries on the same way, he'll become even more of a leader. I'd like to congratulate him for his France call-up. He's going to want to play the two matches for France, but I'm going to talk to Didier Deschamps (smiles)."
Tchouaméni is taking everything in his stride and said pre-Bordeaux: "I know that as an international there are greater expectations of me. My status hasn't necessarily changed. The coach gives me advice in the same way. When I'm with Monaco, I try to think of the France team as little as possible. Being an international gives me a different status but I'm still young and I still have a lot to learn."
Kovac: "He's always trying to learn"
Kovac added: "He takes on his responsibilities in the middle of the park, which is a strategic zone. In that position you need to be disciplined and organise others around you. When I look at him compared to one year ago, he's no longer the same player. He's always trying to learn and understand. He absorbs all the information we give him."
Categorised as a defensive midfielder last season, Tchouaméni's game is evolving all the time and he showcased his burgeoning attacking qualities against Bordeaux, firing off six goal attempts. He said: "I think I'm more consistent compared to when I started here or even compared to last season. As the coach has said, I'm curious and I often ask questions in order to improve."