Can Jean-Clair Todibo succeed at Schalke 04?
Background image: Friedrich Petersdorff, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE.
When Jean-Clair Todibo inspired FC Barcelona to restrict the Lautaro Martinez-Romelu Lukaku fueled Internazionale, the sky felt like the limit for the teenager. But the high hasn’t lasted as long as he’d had hoped for...
Amidst the transitional period, marred by Quique Setien’s appointment, he’s fallen prey to the changes. Despite being loaned to Schalke 04, a discreet option (not obligation) to buy indicates his time with Barca is done. It’s time to prove their loss is the German side's gain. The move could feel a big downgrade. That being said, it could end up being a blessing in disguise for the young Frenchman’s career. The Royal Blues are known for producing and evolving prime youngsters. Dave Wagner’s kept that philosophy alive since taking over.
Winston McKennie, Jonjoe Kenny and Markus Schubert are just a few young talents flourishing under his system. A suitable example would be Ozan Kabak. The Turkish wonderkid rejected advances from a number of European elites to continue his development at Schalke. He keeps on getting better as the season progresses.
Not only he putting in commendable performances in defence-resulting in The Royal Blues holding the 4th-best defensive record in Bundesliga - but having to confidence to score goals proves how much Wagner’s encouragement is inspiring the centre-back.
Todibo probably wants to climb a similar ladder for achieving his utmost potential. But he must adapt to the league’s high-intense style to continue his development. Finding a place in a competitive environment is another obstacle. Matija Nastasic, as well as Benjamin Stambouli’s experience, makes them natural options for keeping things calm.
That being said, this fellow Frenchman’s long-term injury grants him leverage to prove his mettle. With centre-back options wearing thin, he should get ample opportunities once the fixtures pile up. In order to sustain his place, however, the former Barcelona player must come up with formidable performances.
Knowing Wagner, he’ll perhaps shuffle around Kabak with Todibo to give both his blooming young guns enough exposure. But realistically, the new signing could be the Turkish star’s potential successor if he’s leaving this summer. With his rising performance-level catching eyes all around, Schalke could lose their mega-talented youngster.
Now it’s up to the 6’3 centre-back to prove himself capable of matching his Turkish team-mate’s work rate. The 20-year-old is known for being a dominative defender. From making strong tackles to clearances, he often finds himself in the right areas to fend away danger.
But as inexperience often causes, he’s also prone to occasional errors. It’s now upon Wagner to make sure that element is curbed down. The German gaffer’s expert work in getting the best out of the Royal Blues’ current young core indicates he’s the right man to mentor the newest signing.
By allowing his players to express themselves and always fight for each other, he’s managed to aggravate his unit’s warrior spirit. Todibo’s a fighter himself. As long as he manages to inspire the Frenchman towards playing his natural style effectively, sweet results should bear soon. He should blend into their style with ease. While not overly cautious, the Royal Blues are structured to withstand immense pressure. The biggest definition for their solidity is how they kept out league-leaders and top-scorers RB Leipzig earlier this season.
With a strict defensive line, midfielders dropping deep to aid the backline, Schalke have become a tough nut to crack. For an aspiring defender, things don’t get any better. As long as he creates the necessary chemistry with his fellow defenders and puts his hard-hitting technique to good use, the Frenchman should assert his authority soon.
Schalke 04 have four sacred values to be followed by everyone at the club. It calls for possessing the joy for playing, utmost courage, intensity and to have the will to win. Todibo must build himself around this philosophy to succeed. If he does, he could make Lothar Mattheus’ foreshadowing of him being the “best centre-back he's seen in a long time” come true. If he fails to impress - with Barca not requiring his talents anymore - he might get stuck in career limbo.