Désiré Doué: The Gifted One by Vuyo Ndebele
Name: Désiré Doué
Following the conclusion of the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar, most federations, coaches and players alike are already looking ahead to the next edition of the competition in 2026, due to be held in North America. It’s no different for France, who were left disappointed despite some late Kylian Mbappe heroics, as this year’s final saw France relinquish their title as World Champions, eventually losing in a penalty shootout to Lionel Messi and Argentina (following a 3-3 draw AET). The 35 year old PSG star man finally won the elusive jewel that seemed to be missing in his crown of accolades, essentially earning his place amongst football’s immortals.
Didier Deschamps was looking to make it a second consecutive World Cup as manager and third overall, having won in 1998 as a player. With an average of 26.6, Les Bleus were the 10th youngest side at this year’s competition (up 0.6 from 2018). Young players like Aurélien Tchouameni, Randal Kolo Muani and Eduardo Camavinga all made their World Cup debuts in the absence of Paul Pogba, Presnel Kimpembe and Karim Benzema to name a few, showing just how deep the wealth of French talent runs. Camavinga for one, now at Real Madrid, is a product of Stade Rennais’ gold mine of an academy. The club from the west of France also forged out Ousmane Dembélé , who now plays for Barcelona in La Liga. The list of talents they have molded makes their youth set up one of the very best in the world and they look set to have another player on the brink of breaking through in the form of exciting teenager Désiré Doué.
Born in 2005, Désiré began his footballing path at the age of five in Stade Rennais’ Academy and has been there ever since. He was one of the very few kids to have received a proposal to sign a license from the U6s. “I remember that we did two or three rounds of selections and each time we saw the little one on the side with an old ball which was worn out”, recalls Matthieu Le Scornet, then head of the football school at the Breton club in the early 2010s. As his older brother, Guela, had shown up to a try out to convince the Stade Rennais trainers to accept him into the club as part of the U9s, a young Désiré also caught the eye of Le Scornet. “For the big one, it was all complete, and now we had to enquire about the little one, and the parents informed us that he was three years younger. That was no problem, as soon as he was able to get his license, he did and he joined us”. That’s how it all began for the younger of the Doué brothers.
“He always had a ball at his feet and was already at the top in terms of motor skills. You quickly see it when a little one has so much control, it catches the eye” added Florent Bourcier, one of his coaches at youth level. Generally, it was necessary to wait to be a U8 or U9, a policy that was made by the club so that they wouldn’t lead kids and families on too early. “I didn’t want us to take kids without being sure that we could at least advance them to the U13 level”, reiterated Le Scornet, but for Désiré they had to make an exception.
It hasn’t taken long to hear the first comparisons to Dembélé and Camavinga, who are considered to be the latest great talents to come out of Rennais. Matthieu Le Scornet, who has watched all three prodigious talents grow before his eyes amongst others, sees some differences between the two prides of Rennais and the new kid. “Eduardo was already in a collective approach and he did not have this ease from the start, we had a real impact on his handling of the ball. For Ousmane, the first time I saw him was in an eleven-man game and he was passing a lot compared to the player we know now”, says Le Scornet. He adds, “Désiré’s base was not at all pass control, that’s what made him unique. He wasn’t as team oriented, he wanted to play with his opponent, he wanted to enjoy himself. “If we told him not to dribble but he was sure he was going to get past his opponent, he’d do it anyway. He is aware of the risk”.
“Frustrating, sassy and roulette” were some of the words they described him as from early on. Like all youngsters ahead of their age and above the rest on the pitch, Doué has often been outclassed, struggled but ultimately evolved through the frustration towards the player he’s becoming. Throughout the years in addition to what he’s achieved at club level he has also been an important part of the youth national ranks, currently a member of the annoyingly talented U19 squad that boasts the likes of club teammate Lesley Ugochukwu and Mathys Tel, whom he lifted the Euro U17 title alongside not so long ago. Doué helped his side with a brace in the group stage and an assist in the final against the Netherlands. After about a year in between the u19s and reserve side, Désiré finally broke into the Rennais first team at the start of the 22/23 season (making his debut on August 7th 2022). He now looks set to establish himself as a key member of Les Rouge et Noir’s brilliant young team under French manager, Bruno Génésio’s guidance, who underlined his promising talent when speaking to journalists after a win over Dynamo Kyiv, “He has character and is confident in his abilities, which allowed him to win that ball and score the goal,” Génésio said. “He is still a very young player, but to do what he has been doing on this level shows his unbelievable potential.”
At 17, he already has 11 appearances (2 goals) under his belt in Ligue 1 and a handful in the Europa League (1 goal). He fits perfectly into Génésio’s positional-attacking game, as he is remarkably good going forward. Not only is Doué endowed with great body orientation with which he often makes the most of, but he also oozes class and confidence on the ball beyond his age, using his center of gravity exceptionally well (being 5 ’11/1,81m). In addition he is a quick player, especially over a short distance. The versatile midfielder shows a very good ability to accelerate, decelerate, and then quickly shift again (in the same direction) without taking time or losing much momentum. This makes him quite a burden to deal with, especially in 1v1 situations. Furthermore, he possesses a pretty impressive amount of pace over long distances likewise, though his endurance and off the ball ethic could still improve.
Anyhow, Désiré usually makes up for this by picking his runs or the right moments to press intelligently. He is not a player who typically tracks back and will only do so if his side of the pitch is being attacked and outnumbered. He does show commitment to the game by working hard, covering a good amount of area on the pitch, and actively contributes in every phase of play. In fact an underrated part of his game is his efficiency out of possession, averaging 2.8 tackles per game. This is often a beneficial asset for his team as he can kick-start counter attacks with his defensive effort helping in retaining the ball. Although at times he fouls frequently, he fouls smartly. Obstructing the opposition’s momentum, interrupting counter attacks or preventing dangerous transitions.
Another offensive metric he dominates is dribbles completed, managing to do so around 3.1 times per 90. Doué’s vision of the spaces allows him to dribble comfortably in any part of the field to draw pressure on himself. It poses a great threat as he is able to find the free man between the lines consistently. Adding to his excellent ability to successfully execute in the final third, he is also a great progressive passer despite often receiving in advanced tight areas. His ability to shield well allows him to protect the ball even from more physically gifted opponents. When it comes to shooting, Désiré actually has a pretty good ball-striking technique which can be seen especially from set-pieces, scoring directly from them at youth level. He also likes to try shots from long range, scoring a belter from the edge of the box less than a minute after coming on against Nantes in Ligue 1 back in October.
1) Recognized the space on the flank and held his position. Plays a smart pass into space.
2) Patiently follows the play as it progresses.
3) Holds his position on the edge of the box as everyone moves towards the ball.
4) Emphatically finishes into the top corner.
This is an area of his game that could potentially take him to the next level if adequately improved on. The signs look promising nonetheless.
Doué is also equally effective in the defensive midfield role or as a deep lying playmaker, dropping down to offer a passing option for the center-back before, in turn, distributing the ball towards more advanced players. He seems to have the tendency of playing diagonal balls (usually towards the left flank due to him being mainly right-footed) upon receiving the ball in the midfield. These tendencies in his positioning and movements not only show superior spatial and positional awareness but also good tactical understanding and decision making.
This seems to be the season Désiré Doué announces himself to the rest of the world, if he can consistently get game time for Rennais and perform at the level he has started the 22/23 campaign on, that is. The young Frenchman has also recently been tied down to a contract until 2025, offering a massive sigh of relief amongst the Roazhon Park ultras, who have taken to him warmly due to his explosive style of play. According to Transfermarkt.com, he is valued at around €15 million, making him the fourth most expensive u18 player in world football. The rumors won’t go away as some of Europe’s elite clubs will no doubt be keeping close tabs on him. With that being said one can only hope that the young starlet continues to grow in every aspect and does in turn join Mbappe & Co. at the next World Cup.
It also just so happens that the name Doué translates to gifted in English. Make of that what you will.