Tactical Insights

Jean-Clair Todibo: Why Man Utd are so interested in the Nice centre-back who rebuilt his career after Barcelona heartbreak

The Frenchman has shrugged off a disappointing spell with Barca to blossom into one of the top ball-playing defenders in Europe

For many aspiring footballers, Barcelona is the ultimate goal. So what happens when you end up at Camp Nou at the age of 19, and it all goes pear-shaped? That’s what happened to Jean-Clair Todibo.

But far from let that disappointment drag him down and define his career, the French centre-back used it to spur him on. And now he is one of the most coveted defenders in Europe, with the ability to pick his next destination.

The Nice and France centre-back has been attracting attention from the continent’s biggest sides for some time, and last summer entertained an offer from Manchester United when it looked as though Harry Maguire was going to be sold to West Ham. In the end, perhaps motivated by his negative experience in Catalunya, Todibo decided to stay put and remain with Nice, where he knew he was guaranteed regular football and could be the heartbeat of the team’s backline.

“I’m not going to lie and say that I didn’t tell myself that perhaps I should play in a ‘top club’… But there are also guarantees when playing at Nice,” he told L’Equipe. “I experienced it differently from my previous situations in my career. My thinking was much more in-depth, thoughtful. I didn’t want to make a mistake in my choice. I remained very calm. Reflection is much more important than when I started. I’m waiting to be presented with the complete project.”

As the transfer window fast approaches, clubs will be queuing up to present their projects to Todibo. And United are set to be among them as they look to a future without Raphael Varane while being wary that they cannot always count on the fitness of Lisandro Martinez.

So why is the 24-year-old so in demand? GOAL has the lowdown…

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