RISING STAR: NORDI MUKIELE
Montpellier stopper Nordi Mukiele is making waves in one of Ligue 1 Conforama tightest defences, and is tipped for big things by players and coaches alike.
Powerful and quick, Nordi Mukiele has been a tower of strength for Montpellier this term. The 20-year-old defender looks so assured it's hard to believe he's only been playing top-flight football for a year following his transfer from second-division side Laval.
"It's thanks to the team," the native of Paris region told the Ligue 1 Show on beIN SPORTS. "They really helped me settle when I arrived last season, and things have gone well. The coach has got me playing in this five-man defence."
"He's got a lot of potential," explained Montpellier boss Michel Der Zakarian, himself a defender during his playing days. "He's an intelligent player, he's good in the air, reads the game well and is comfortable with the ball."
Montpellier's five-man backline has been remarkably solid. Mukiele has started 24 games, operating as a right-sided central defender.
"It felt a bit strange at first because I'd never played in that system. But I've tried to adapt," said the dedicated youngster. "I work at it in the video room and in training."
Mukiele is hungry to learn. And playing alongside Vitorino Hilton - the club captain who is exactly twice Mukiele's age - the Frenchman knows he has an ideal teacher.
"It's good for me to play next to Vito. What he's doing at the age of 40 is incredible. I'm learning game after game, training session after training session," said the promising young star, with his mentor returning the respect. "He's showing in every game he has the talent and I hope he'll became a truly great defender."
Work to do
The France U21 international is already on the radar of some of Europe's leading clubs, but Mukiele knows he's not yet the finished article.
"One thing that annoys me is the lapses in concentration," he admitted. "I know it's because I'm young and I'll grow out of this. We'll see what happens, but I'm working on it."