I had initially planned on watching the Under-20 World Cup final between Uruguay and France so that could I observe summer signing Guillermo Valera again*. However, the right-back was surprisingly dropped after he had previously been involved in every single minute for La Celeste in this tournament. As a result, since I had already sat down to watch the match, I decided to turn my attention to rumored transfer target Geoffrey Kondrogbia (and pretend that Paul Pogba doesn't exist). Consider me impressed by the young Sevilla midfielder.
* Valera did come on as a late game substitute. In case you missed it, here's a review of his performance versus Croatia in Uruguay's opening group-stage match.
I've hardly watched Kondrogbia play in the past so this was essentially a first-impression that he was making on me. Right away, I noticed the obvious -- the 20-year-old is physically imposing, he's quick, and his movement is very fluid for a man his size. Cue the predictable Patrick Vieira comparisons made by the commentators...
In this match, he was deployed in the double-pivot alongside Pogba in France's 4-2-3-1 system. The former United prodigy had the freedom to roam and pulled the strings in midfield while Kondrogbia was more conservative in a positional sense -- a bit like Michael Carrick. The two Frenchmen, though, did take turns going forward at appropriate times.
Kondrogbia's positional awareness was solid in this match and while he did seem hesitant to get into the attacking third, he did so when needed. It seemed clear, though, that he was to be the calm midfielder -- in a positional sense -- while Pogba had the freedom of movement in midfield. Kondrogbia is very eager in tackle and his 2.8 tackles per game in La Liga at a 80% success rate hints that he's typically this way. He's very strong and energetic and this allowed him to do well in screening for Pogba. In addition, he also displayed the ability to read the game and there were times when he stepped into passing lanes and prevented Uruguay from sending the ball in behind him. In terms of his movement and making himself available to receive passes, that could be improved.
Technically, Kondrogbia displayed both his rawness and potential. His first-touch needs to improve, as does his short-range passing -- particularly with his right-foot. The 20-year-old heavily favors his left-foot and he only goes to his right when he absolutely needs to (this is a bit like Kevin Strootman). His decision-making appeared decent but his short-passing was loose at times. He did, though, impressively hit some long diagonals out to the flanks and he showed the ability and willingness to drop a ball over the top of the opposition's defense. Furthermore, he played a tremendous one-touch, 20-yard through-ball for Yaya Sanogo in the first-half -- the Arsenal striker, though, had a poor first-touch and this resulted in an opportunity that a better striker like Robin van Persie or Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) would have turned with and likely finished on the second-touch. It was an impressive bit of technique and vision from the 20-year-old.
Overall, Kondrogbia is still raw, but his talent is obvious. He's not as polished as a player like Strootman, but his ceiling is higher as he has the potential to be a better player than the Dutchman. If Kondrogbia were to be bought by United this summer, supporters should be excited -- but they should also be hoping another midfielder is also bought, as well. The Frenchman would likely be immediate depth and there's no indication that he's ready to start over a player like Tom Cleverley. Buying him and loaning him back for a season wouldn't be a bad idea either as this would allow the 20-year-old to further develop and a move like that by United might allow them to get the player for a bit cheaper. There is, though, a third party has own 50% of Kondrogbia's contract so perhaps that could complicate a transfer for him to England.