Khéphren Thuram: How Lillian Thuram’s youngest son has quickly risen in the ranks of OGC Nice – scout report
Khéphren Thuram, the son of renowned French defender Lilian Thuram, has finally seen his arc grow after racking up plenty of game time for OGC Nice in 2022.
His elder brother, Marcus Thuram is also a professional footballer. Marcus plays for Borussia Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga and has represented France in the latest edition of the World Cup.
Khéphren is a product of Monaco’s development programme and made his professional debut for the club in the 2018/19 Champions League season, playing for Monaco against Atletico Madrid. He has played for France’s U-17 and U-18 teams and joined Nice in 2019.
Khéphren is a tall, physical player who yields in dominance with the ball and an attack-minded midfielder who always tends to take his team up the pitch. At just 21, he has never been a doubt to be involved in the starting eleven for Lucien Favre. As the midfielder who bridges the defence and the attack, Khephren’s game-running ability has highly developed.
So far this season, Khéphren has appeared in 24 games in all competitions for Nice, helping on four goals. The former Monaco midfielder is skilled at passing the ball, isn’t afraid to get into a few rough battles, can get up to speed quickly after losing possession, and is extremely strong at reading the game defensively.
After spending the first part of the campaign in Nice’s reserve unit, the Frenchman has emerged as a crucial cog in the wheel, filling in for colleagues who often advance to higher places. His regularity was unquestionable at one point in January of 2022.
After starting to be consistent, he was never let go of the starting eleven. He started featuring quite often even before Favre was named the head coach in June of the same year. Khéphren has also impressed the former Borussia Dortmund coach and has proved to be a starter on his roster.
Since Gouiri or Justin Kluivert often play on the right wing, Thuram, a dynamic and direct deep-lying midfielder who could also play as an outright sentinel, is frequently moved to the left side of the pitch to provide balance.
How his physicality provides in defence
Thuram, who stands at 191 centimetres, towers over his peers. Thanks to this, he can make tackles while still in motion and snag balls that would normally be out of reach for a man of his height and build.
Historically, the primary focus of central defensive midfielders has been to “man-mark” the other team’s star player and to steal the ball from him whenever possible. Thuram might need more work in this area, but given that change in modern football is constantly up and running, he might be the one to watch for the future.
He loves to be close to the ball receiver even before he receives it, and applies pressure to break his balance. A good dribbler wouldn’t come near a player like him as he gives less space to wander out when he’s close.
We surely see the opponent has lost balance while Thuram is just behind in putting his physicality to work. In tight spaces, he would dominate the opponent, performing a backing action with the desire to grab the ball off them.
On average, he competes in 6.58 defensive duels each game, with a winning percentage of 66%, and that’s a decent showing for such a young player in the defensive midfield position. He does a lot of effort for the team by picking up the ball 5.96 times per 90 minutes.
Against Partizan in the Europe Conference league, his long legs allow him to cover quick areas where he could close on the player even before he receives it. A pass was played off by the opponent’s teammates, aiming to make a cross the first time. But Thuram sees it and quickly strides two long steps to make an interception.
Thuram’s 50% success rate in aerial duels may be a little high given his height, but he’s the kind of player that will become bigger and better with time, so his aerial game will only improve.
Against his former club in the league, the full-back makes a pass with no scope to build, as in the above shot. With his tight marking, he gave no space for him to take the touch. He was able to quickly recognise the scope of the play and cut down the man with no fear.
Thuram often loses track of the ball in his third while the other team develops from the middle of the field. The fact that he has just 19 interceptions on the season is evidence of this.
Thus, we notice a similarity in how wins duels, just by his vivid marking and physical strength to do their parts. Even before the attacker of Lille received the pass from his fellow mate, Thuram was already near as in the top picture.
Then he rags the opponent and grabs the ball to initiate an attack. Well, the character that shows while defending shifts into a ball-playing attacker who rides up the pitch.
Finally, in the match against heavyweights PSG, Achraf Hakimi is seen in his ideal crossing position with Kylian Mbappé in a pole position to poach. Thuram was then able to quickly take two long steps to intercept the incoming cross.
The potential he holds is vivid and surely is a bright one to venture out. Well, thinking about the traits he’d acquire defensively in the coming years is precious. His recent development while training with Vieira, a master of the craft, suggests he will make great strides in this direction. His physicality being the main strength, his awareness of what kind of player he would evolve into is completely up to him.
On the ball ability
He has long legs to play with and has a quick and reactive sense in the centre of the midfield. His on-the-ball ability is to an utmost similar to Juventus’ Paul Pogba, in terms of flair on the ball with confidence and dominant characteristics.
Against OL in the league, once his teammate nearby wins the ball, his first touch allows him to directly place himself in the middle of the triangle. He then makes use of the space left by opponent midfielders, and sprints to initiate the attack.
With his legs being long, his recovery is an easy thing to watch from the fans’ perspective. Covering a larger distance with just a few steps could give him leeway not to think about recovering and he seems to do it with such ease.
Khéphren’s intelligent usage of physicality is amazing, as his strong structure gives way to unlocking new qualities in his gameplay. In one of the tight matches between Nice and Köln, Thuram deliberately shields off the opponent as he’s seen pressing him in his half.
After he attracts the second man to come at him, he chooses to release the lock and let go of them to the space. Khéphren’s intelligent usage of physicality is amazing, as his strong structure gives way to unlocking new qualities in his gameplay.
The in-game ability to create room in tight spaces allows a lot of freedom in a player’s growth. Just beginning his adulthood, he is way better than Pogba in his early adulthood. After Pogba’s trademarks have been set concerning the playing style, Thuram is one of a kind.
To aid the penetrating carries shown in the above graphic, his pass completion rate (86.8% vs 87.3%) and average progressive passes per 90 minutes are two areas in which Thuram’s numbers are comparable to Liverpool’s Fabinho (3.70 to 3.62).
In this picture from the match versus Partizan, the left defender locates Thuram in the centre of a square. When he sees a forward charging from behind, he cuts inside to provide space for the fullback to run into. He then times the pass until he’s attracted enough players to give the runner adequate space.
When he can’t decide which teammate to pass the ball to, he loves to keep it near to him. For the modern game, a deep-lying midfielder with such abilities is quite unusual. He has the charisma to infiltrate the structure and turn it into a successful event.
Finally, we see him adjusting his position before he’s on the ball. Against Slovácko, he defines what he’s made of when he’s about to receive the ball. The awareness to quickly plan his near future is incredible.
When the opponents press, Thuram is captured looking at the area he wants to move before his teammate passes. With the huge space left by the by-products of the press, he quickly exploits it by placing himself in an amazing position.
Although many young players have risen to the occasion in the past few years, he is one to keep an eye on given his ability to combine both physicality and close control of the ball.
A fantastic trait for someone in his position is the ability to run with the ball. Since he is on the defence, every increase in speed with which the team may start an attack benefits everyone. Being in that central role allows you to take advantage of the free space created by weaker pressing teams.
By the time he begins to see a pattern, he will have advanced to a level of play that requires him to be more aware of such things. This would help him become an expert at the position until he decides to switch to a more offensive role. Any coach worth his salt would try him out, given his skills on the ball.
He makes up ground on his regaining opponents in the Köln game in rapid time. With this strategy, he gives his sprinting rivals more areas to work with.
His rapid acceleration highlighted the freedom with which Nice may switch between attacks. When Troyes forms a block, Thuram breaks through it by moving into open space.
What we’re seeing here is hardly the play of a defensive midfielder. It would never occur to him to go into a throng without first passing the ball. In the league, he averages 3.35 progressive runs per ninety minutes, enough for 10th place.
The following diagram sums up his ball progression abilities, which illustrate his leadership skills. For a midfielder in a more defensive role, those stats are impressive.
The majority of his attempts are green, indicating that they are more likely to be successful than not. When the squad has to pick up pace quickly, he can do it with his movements and drive.
Considering he had finished defending himself in a duel, his desire to attack is pretty surprising. Thuram’s opponent took a heavy hit, but the referee decided to play on and Thuram’s response time was lightning quick enough to keep the game going. The accompanying picture shows the offender, shown in red, rising from the ground after a series of appeals.
Thuram takes the lead at the front and his teammates begin a sprint to catch up to him. Following a deft ball from Thuram, the fullback finds an opening and depth to exploit.
Given his ability to cover ground at a clip of 30-50 yards per carry, it is easy to see the value he would provide to an offensive attack as shown in the image below. On another occasion when playing against Troyes, he breaks through the opposition’s midfield and draws the defender toward him.
Then, he moves out to the wide to the other central defender, who is shown standing rather than moving to cover his partner. Even if Thuram could run fast enough to get into a shooting position, that was as far as he got.
He would test his mettle by taking the ball on his own without any help up front. Even his offensive abilities were on display in the contest against the league leaders. Just by combining with his attacking teammate after coming on in the second half, he managed to generate a half-chance.
In a no-way block against the flank men and their covers, Thuram quickly passes in his outside foot to play a wall-pass to through the tight areas. The accurate pass back to him helped him with how he had to approach the situation.
Then, in a second, he cuts through to create a window of opportunity where none existed before. Fans would crown him king if he scored or assisted a goal, but he was simply a chance creator.
This is only the beginning of his impressive career. As a whole, the impressions of his character have been favourable up to this point.
Khéphren is the son of one of the greatest defenders in history, thus has some pretty big shoes to fill if he wants to achieve his father’s level of success. The midfielder has rather been putting in extraordinary work in training, and if his career continues on its present path, he will undoubtedly become an important part of this rescue.
Although Khéphren Thuram already boasts undeniable skill, learning from a great like Patrick Veiria, who also succeeded in a similar capacity. If he can keep his head down and work his way through the ranks, the French national team might be calling him up in a few years.
The scout report covers all the bases in describing the kind of player he now is and has the potential to become. A claimed weekly pay of less than €18,000 per week should pose no barrier for any teams if a deal were to be made.
Everything said, he seems to be an exciting prospect, given his influence on the beautiful game in every direction since childhood.