Scout Report: Terence Kongolo

It may have only been 4o hours since the transfer window opened but Town fans have grown accustomed to David Wagner getting his business done at the earliest possible opportunity.

Already, it seems this window is following a similar trend as it has just been announced that Huddersfield Town have signed AS Monaco defender, Terence Kongolo, on loan for the remainder of the season.

This piece, which includes an interview with a Dutch freelance journalist, goes into detail on who Town’s latest signing is.

Beginning with a chronological exploration of Kongolo’s career so far before providing our own opinion on how we think Kongolo will fare in West Yorkshire.

Who is Terence Kongolo?

The Feyenoord Years

Born in Fribourg, Switzerland, Kongolo’s professional footballing career began when he joined Feyenoord’s academy at the age of fifteen.

Whilst the Netherlands, as a nation has the knack of producing talented young player after talented young player, Feyenoord’s Varkenoord system stands out in particular.

Voted as the best academy in Holland for the past six years, the academy has produced the likes of Robin van Persie, Daryl Janmaat, Leroy Fer, Georginio Wijnaldum, Stefan de Vrij, Bruno Martins Indi and Jordy Clasie.

Whilst many of these graduates went on to have success across Europe and in the Premier League, one graduate who in recent years has showed immense potential is Terence Kongolo.

In fact, many believed that the talented young defender was the next household name to add to the list for the next generation to aspire to be.

Since being handed his debut by Ronald Koeman in 2012, Terence Kongolo was ever-present at the heart of Feyenoord’s defence. This saw Kongolo accumulate over hundred appearances in the Eredivisie.

However, it was Kongolo’s performances in his final season at De Kuip which led to the young defender drawing attention from across Europe.

Whilst Giovanni van Bronckhorst gained much praise for leading De club aan de Maas back to glory as Feyenoord won their first Eredivisie title since 1998-99, Terence Kongolo was of the stand-out performers in this record-breaking side.

Moving to Monaco

Having conquered Holland in what would soon become his final season at Feyenoord, Terence Kongolo’s next chapter was with the newly crowned Ligue 1 champions, AS Monaco.

Despite masterminding a Champions’ League semi-final appearance as well as the domestic success, Leonardo Jardim acknowledged that the success was somewhat of a poisoned chalice.

With Europe’s elite clubs looking to dismantle this Monaco side, Jardim had to reluctantly accept that there would be departures from the Stade Louis II.

One of the notable departures was Benjamin Mendy from AS Monaco to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Tasked with filling that notable void was… Terence Kongolo.

However, since making the switch to Les Rouges et Blancs, Terence Kongolo’s meteoric rise has hit a stumbling block.

Having made just three league appearances this term for Monaco, it appears that he has drifted to the peripheries of the Monaco squad to the point that the 23-year-old Dutchman is no longer part of Jardim’s immediate plans.

Instead, we now know that Kongolo’s next chapter lies in West Yorkshire.

Expert’s Opinion

After the news broke that Kongolo had signed for Town, I got in touch with Dutch freelance journalist, Yordi Yamali to get his take on the proposed move.

Considering Kongolo has only made three appearances for Monaco this season, why do you think he’s struggled to force his way into Monaco’s starting XI?

“For me it’s clear that it all has to do with Monaco losing a lot of players, but not in defence. Struggling to reach the same level as last season, their coach Jardim was not up to risking upsetting the harmony at the back.

The duo of Glik and Jemerson have a really good partnership and their experience and knowhow has shone through, leaving Kongolo waiting in the wings. At Feyenoord he played often as left-back, but I’m assuming that Monaco, like me, prefers Kongolo playing as a centre-half”.

When Kongolo has played for Monaco this season, how has he performed? Do you think he will benefit from David Wagner’s proven track record with young players? 
“His first appearance was not great his other two were solid. His last game he got a spot in the team of the week. I think that he will benefit a lot of Wagner, but it will be still up to him to show what he’s capable of”.
Whilst it is well known that Kongolo is comfortable playing either as a left-back or at centre-half, which position do you think is his natural position? 
“As I said above, Kongolo for me is a typical modern day centre-back. He’s strong, although he has to prove that again in the physical Premier League. He’s smart and quick and his passing game is really impressing for a defender”.  
Are you surprised that there’s not more teams in the chase to sign Kongolo’s signature, even on a temporary basis? 
“He has just arrived in Monaco, and they don’t want to lose him already. So there wouldn’t be a lot of options. Going back to Holland wouldn’t help him develop. Maybe the likes of Lazio, Roma, or Villarreal could be teams who could have benefited from Kongolo.
“However because of the transfer love story between the Ligue 1 and the Premier League in the recent years I think this was a smart move for all parties”.
How would you rate the move if it does materialise?
“Really good. It shows me Huddersfield Town and Wagner know where to look. It’s shows ambition and for the Kongolo side of the story it shows he want to prove something”.

Will he be a success at Town?

With just three league appearances and six overall to his name this season, David Wagner’s first task is helping Terence Kongolo re-find his form and fitness.

However, David Wagner has shown time and time again that he can provide an environment that allows out of favour players (at their former/parent club) to thrive.

In the specific case of Terence Kongolo, the change of scenery and the influence of David Wagner could make all the difference.

It has already been revealed that a discussion with David Wagner was enough to persuade Kongolo to make the temporary switch from AS Monaco to Huddersfield Town.

Whilst the opportunity of development is an attractive proposition for Terence Kongolo himself and his parent club AS Monaco, the move is also a major coup for Town.

Only last summer did Kongolo make the switch to the Principality for €15 million and whilst his stock may have fallen slightly due to his stuttering start to life at Monaco, to have the opportunity to sign a player of such calibre just six months later, it is yet another signal of intent by Dean Hoyle and David Wagner.

As for what Kongolo will bring to the squad, former Ajax coach Co Adriaanse summarises that as:

“Kongolo has everything for the modern defender […] He can play in the centre of defence, on the left or even in midfield. He is tall, fast, has good technique and can play the ball into midfield”.

The description of Kongolo as a ‘modern defender’ is an apt one and a description that befits the type of player that David Wagner is constantly searching for.

As well as his technical ability, Kongolo’s mentality, which has been described as ‘controlled aggression’, and his relentless work ethic fits David Wagner’s criteria for any new arrival.

It is that combination of his technical ability, his mentality, and his versatility to play either as a full-back or a ball-playing centre-half that makes the Dutch international such a good acquisition for David Wagner.

Whilst it is yet to be seen how Terence Kongolo will be utilised by David Wagner, to have someone as multi-faceted and talented as Kongolo to add to the ranks for the second half of the season is a major boost. 

With Chris Lowe likely to be sidelined due to a sustained foot injury, Kongolo may have an immediate opportunity to force his way into the starting line-up.

If David Wagner can help Kongolo re-find his Feyenoord form, the 23-year-old Dutchman could quickly become a fan favourite and be part of the solution to Town’s defensive frailties. 

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