TRANSFER TARGET: Khéphren Thuram

Khéphren Thuram is a 22-year-old midfielder currently playing for OGC Nice in Ligue 1. The Frenchman has impressed this season at the Allianz Arena, and is rumoured to have attracted the attention of some of Europe’s most prestigious clubs – including Manchester City, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain. Liverpool are also reportedly following the youngster as an alternative to Jude Bellingham, and Borussia Dortmund are also keeping eyes on the Frenchman as a potential replacement for the English midfield maestro.

But why is Khéphren Thuram the name on everyone’s tongue at the moment? Is he really that good, or are we hyping up a young talent too early? I’ve pored over the stats and analysed just what he can bring to any team – then weighed up whether he’s really worth the €60m price tag.

Football’s In The Blood

Think you recognise the Thuram surname? You’d be right – Khéphren is the son of legendary French defender Lilian. His father’s early career was spent at AS Monaco, before moving across the border to play for both Parma and Juventus – ultimately ending up at Barcelona. Khéphren’s brother, Marcus, is also a professional footballer, currently playing as a striker for Borussia Mönchengladbach in the German Bundesliga. It’s fair to say that Khéphren has been surrounded by football from a young age, and at an unbelievably high level. Furthermore, Lilian’s cousin Yohann is also a professional goalkeeper who currently represents Quevilly-Rouen in Ligue 2.

Just like his father, Khéphren’s career started at AS Monaco. His debut came in the Champions League, replacing Aleksandr Golovin in the 63rd minute of a 2-0 loss to Atletico Madrid. Having appeared just thrice for les Monégasques, Thuram made the switch to local rivals OGC Nice – just thirty minutes west of the Principality.

Aiming High at the Allianz

Khéphren’s Ligue 1 debut came on the 17th August 2019, just a month or two after completing his move to the Allianz Riviera. That season, he went on to make sixteen competitive appearances for les Aiglons. His first goal in France’s top division came a season later, scoring Nice’s second goal in a 2-1 win over Nantes. In the 2020/21 season, he made 33 appearances for OGC Nice and impressed enough to earn a call up to France’s U21 side.

Bosses at the Allianz were impressed by the youngster’s performances throughout his first two seasons at the club, and went on to offer Khéphren a contract extension in September 2021 – seeing him earn a reported €16k per week. He went on to make 41 appearances for Christophe Galtier’s side throughout the 2021/22 season, and was a crucial player in the side’s push for the Europa League. Despite finishing level with Rennes on 66 points, Nice’s goal difference was inferior – so les Aiglons had to settle for the Europa Conference League.

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Managerial Movements

Christophe Galtier left the club to take over Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season, with Lucien Favre returning for his second stint in the Allianz Riviera dugout. Favre trusted Thuram from the start, and the young Frenchman soon became part of the furniture in the engine room – working alongside the likes of Hicham Boudaoui and Aaron Ramsey.

However, Lucien Favre’s return to the French South Coast was shortlived – and he was sacked on the 9th January following an unacceptable defeat against Le Puy-en-Valay in the Coupe de France. What should have been a relatively straightforward win for OGC Nice ended in embarrassment, as the third-tier side took an early lead that they were able to hold on to.

Didier Digard was appointed as Favre’s replacement, having previously been in charge of the club’s academy. During his playing career, Digard made 145 appearances for OGC Nice – initially joining on loan from Middlesbrough before making the deal permanent.

Divine Dependability

Last season, 36 of Khéphren Thuram’s 41 appearances came in Ligue 1. He started just twenty of those games, accumulating 1,901 minutes throughout the course of the season. This season though, he’s made thirty appearances in the league already – starting 25 of those games and playing a total of 2,187 minutes. That means the youngster has already played the equivalent of three full games more than he did last season! In addition, he’s also made his debut for the French National Team.

Something that stands out about Khéphren is his impeccable injury record. The Frenchman has never sustained a major injury, and that’s something that will be invaluable to any side should he make the move this Summer. With Liverpool’s ageing midfield looking increasingly injury-prone, Thuram’s dependability would be invaluable as they look to return to the top of the table in 2023/24.

Crucial Contributions

Throughout the 2021/22 season, Thuram popped up with four goals in Ligue 1 – and an additional two assists, bringing his total tally to a respectable six goal contributions. The figures have swapped this season though, with the Frenchman having bagged just twice while assisting four. Either way, those are very respectable contributions from midfield!

As much as he enjoys a goal, Thuram isn’t desperate to get on the scoresheet – instead opting to remain in possession rather than shooting from speculative positions and conceding the ball. Having said that, he’s attempted 1.36 shots per 90 minutes over the course of this season, with 27.3% of those on target.

Precision Passer

Thuram’s passing is arguably one of his strongest attributes – and that’s backed up by the statistics. 84.8% of his 1184 attempted passes have found the intended target this season, and the youngster is keen to move the ball forwards. This season, his passes have travelled a combined 16,087 yards – with just under a quarter of that total yardage heading towards the opponent’s goal. Thuram knows how to pick out the right pass too, creating 2.96 shooting opportunities per ninety minutes – with resulting in 0.29 goal-creating opportunities.

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Excellent At Both Ends

Khéphren Thuram has attempted 38 tackles so far this season in Ligue 1, and he boasts a 47.8% success rate. That’s in addition to his 28 blocks and 32 interceptions – so it’s safe to say that any side could rely on the Frenchman defensively!

It’s moving forward that Thuram really impresses though. I’ve already touched on his desire to move the ball forwards – and that’s backed up by his eighty progressive carries throughout this campaign. He’s carried the ball into the penalty area on fourteen occasions, and has a 60.9% success rate when taking on opponents.

Thuram has been deployed as an attacking midfielder on several occasions throughout his time at OGC Nice, though I think it’s fair to say that he’s more than capable anywhere in the midfield. His attacking attributes are impressive for a midfielder, and he’s able to hold his own defensively too. His presence on the pitch results in a noticeable boost in the side’s goalscoring exploits – netting an extra 0.19 goals per 90 when he’s playing.

Other Options

Stats are all well and good, but how does Khéphren Thuram stack up against some other options? I’ve opted to compare him to Liverpool’s Thiago Alcántara, Manchester City’s İlkay Gündoğan, Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham, Real Madrid’s Eduardo Camavinga and Lyon’s Maxence Caqueret. For the sake of this article, all stats are taken from their respective league campaigns this season – so any cup competitions and international appearances haven’t been included.

How do their goal contributions stack up?

Thuram – two goals and four assists – xGA of 7.4

Alcántara – hasn’t scored or assisted this season – xGA of 1.5

Gündoğan – four goals and three assists – xGA of 8.6

Bellingham – four goals and four assists – xGA of 8.5

Camavinga – no goals and one assist – xGA of 2.0

Caqueret – one goal and six assists – xGA of 5.7

Maxence Caqueret is the only player on my list to have outperformed his expected goal contributions tally – though Jude Bellingham wasn’t far off. Thiago Alcántara’s stats are less than impressive, though admittedly his game time has been limited. Caqueret has been unbelievably impressive at Lyon this season, and I’m surprised he isn’t being linked with a big money move this summer!

With Liverpool desperate for midfield reinforcements but unwilling to spend big for Jude Bellingham, either Caqueret or Thuram would be the ideal signing. However, Khéphren Thuram would suit Jurgen Klopp’s side slightly better in my opinion, owing to his incredibly versatility that allows him to shine anywhere in the midfield.

How does Thuram’s passing accuracy compare?

Thuram – 84.8% (1004/1184)

Alcántara – 85.9% (867/1009)

Gündoğan – 85.6% (997/1165)

Bellingham – 81.4% (1115/1370)

Camavinga – 91.0% (924/1015)

Caqueret – 82.7% (1071/1295)

Eduardo Camavinga is the standout player in this comparison – with a whopping 91% of his passes finding the intended target. That speaks volumes about how incredibly in sync Real Madrid are at the moment, with the players sharing an almost telepathic connection that allows them to stay one step ahead of the opposition.

Khéphren Thuram’s passing accuracy seems to be average, and I don’t think he’d have any glaring problems slotting into the midfield at any major club. It’s important to remember that passing accuracy is – to an extent – defined by the quality of the player receiving the pass, so I’d expect to see that figure rise if Thuram moved to Manchester City, Real Madrid or Liverpool.

Coming to a Conclusion

Khéphren Thuram is the perfect signing for Liverpool. The Frenchman would slot perfectly into their midfield, and is capable of performing a number of roles. With Klopp’s engine room suffering from a plethora of injuries, signing Thuram would allow a degree of flexibility – as he could operate in almost any midfield role.

If the rumours of Liverpool’s interest in Jude Bellingham coming to an end are true, they must make sure that they don’t miss out on the young French midfielder. If Manchester City were to pick him up, he would be a threatening asset among a talented squad at the Etihad, but I personally see Real Madrid as their biggest competitor for Thuram’s signature. Khéphren would be the ideal replacement for the ageing Toni Kroos or Luka Modrić – and I’m sure he wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to link up with a handful of fellow French internationals.

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