Once the summer transfer market closed, we took stock, and tried to map the new purchases of Venice as the cartographers of the Renaissance. We tried to reconstruct the history, meaning and potential of each new player who came to wear one of the coolest jerseys of the season. In the universe of random transfer markets – which have become quite a popular genre recently – the Venezia transfer market stands out for its absurdity and a certain arcane taste for the players we have already found ourselves coaching at Football Manager. After a few months, coached by Zanetti (the “Klopp della Bassa”), Venezia in the field confirmed all its cult: with Henry’s pachydermic elegant goals, Sofian Kyine’s rustling dribbles, Gianluca’s head-on football Busio. For all these reasons there was a disproportionate hype on the January transfer market, a random window by definition, where creative teams usually give the worst of themselves. When January had yet to begin, Venezia has already struck a blow that even surpasses expectations, buying Mickael Cuisance (!) From Bayern Munich (!) For 4 million euros.
I don’t know if you remember it, but for sure you have it in mind if you followed the U-17 European Championships in Azerbaijan a few years ago. The best players of the tournament were Matthijs De Ligt for the Netherlands, Kai Havertz for Germany and Mickael Cuisance for France.
A demonstration of Cuisance’s game vision and left foot quality.
Cuisance played in the number 10 shirt, starting from the right midfielder to inverted foot, but he has a square jaw, thick shoulders, swollen chest. A person who has done a little too much training to respect the classic canons of the little genius and fragile finisher. Yet that was the secret of the recent French football miracle: to produce players that are both ultra-technical and ultra-dynamic. His physique seemed a reassurance of his success, of his solidity in the competitive ruthlessness of contemporary football. His athleticism as a mature player opened the doors of football for the greats very early on, and Cuisance developed a great history of precocity.
Born in Strasbourg, on the German border, raised in the Nancy youth teams as Le Roi Michel Platini, he soon ended up playing in Germany, at Borussia Monchengladbach, struck by his performances with the French youth national teams – where Cuisance was clearly out of category. In France there was the usual discussion on local talents who emigrate too young, as Cuisance had refused Nancy’s offer to renew, but also Manchester City’s, to play in Germany. Faucher, one of his first coaches, had said of him: «He has a great character, rare at that age, and a great playing intelligence. He is always able to perceive the key moments of the match. We feel betrayed, we don’t work on young people so that they go abroad so soon ». Cuisance had followed in the footsteps of other French talents who had seen the Bundesliga as the perfect context to grow without too much pressure and with state-of-the-art facilities. The street of Ousmane Dembelé, Serge Gnabry or Axel Zagadou.
At that point, Cuisance’s story begins to get weird.
After a few games with the youth teams, the coach Hecking made him debut at 18 with the first team. Against Stuttgart, Cuisance entered the field and was half right-footed, ruling the game with a left foot that let glimpses of great things. Cuisance has extraordinary accuracy in passing over any distance; he is one of those midfielders who changes the game of forty meters with the relaxation of someone who seems born for that.
In the summer, Monchengladbach had to sell Mahmoud Dahoud to Borussia Dortmund: another technical midfielder, of which Cuisance therefore seemed to be the heir. In his first season accumulating more than a thousand minutes in the Bundesliga, Hecking dotes on him, says: “He is the kind of player we allow ourselves to take risks for”; Kramer, one of the leaders of the team, says that “At 17 he is already much ahead of what I was at 22!”. He was the youngest Bundesliga rookie in Monchengladbach history, and was voted best youngster by his fans at the end of the year. For some reason, however, the following year Cuisance disappears. He no longer plays, he is left on the bench when he goes well, at other times he is directly marginalized in the youth team. Legends about him begin to proliferate, including those that he has a bad temper. How else to explain that he went backwards instead of forward?
Cuisance finds himself at that point in the situation in which talented young people with a failure in the curriculum are: they can go down a level, or some big club may decide to bet again on their talent with a Red Cross instinct. On the fact that in a higher level context – more rigid, more organized, more stimulating – they can be able to express themselves. And so Bayern Munich in the summer of 2019, after a season that Cuisance played for just over two hundred minutes, decided to pay 10 million to Monchengladbach and take him to Bavaria. «His quality is evident when he carries the ball. He has an amazing technique, a fantastic left foot and great mental strength »commented Salihamidzic, sporting director of the club. In the first season he spends more time with the youth team than with the big ones, and nothing seems to have changed. Someone begins to doubt that he made a right choice to go to Monaco, like Mario Bassler: «Immense talent, but how can someone be so stupid as to leave the club where he grew up and where he has everything? Sometimes I really wonder what young players have in their heads – probably nothing! ». Salihamidzic had to intervene to defend it: “He has potential and we have the idea that with his Bayern mates they can help him move up a step, and he takes the opportunity very seriously”
Except that in a June match against Wolfsburg, Cuisance scores a goal that reveals the sci-fi qualities of his left. From his tile, on the center-right, he concludes from the inside with a strength and precision that make the ball seem more docile and lighter. The kind of technical gestures that confirm Cuisance’s talent matched Bayern Munich, that Salihamidzic isn’t crazy.
The goal throws a light of hopes and expectations on the new season, where Cuisance, however, appears on the pitch only one, before being loaned to Olympique Marseille. Another movement that speaks of the paradoxical situation in which a player like him finds himself, poised between an undeniable talent and having shown practically nothing.
Things in France are going from bad to worse. If Cuisance finds some space on the bench with Villas Boas, things get worse when Sampaoli arrives. Cuisance seems too crazy even for him.
In the last matches of Ligue 1 he does not play because the coach does not like how he trains: he only thinks of himself, he plays too much individually. According to the French journalists, there is also a problem of physical condition: Cuisance does not exactly have a lean physique, but it is strange not to see him manage even ten minutes of a match, they say. This is not the first time there have been disturbing rumors about Cuisance’s physical condition. If it says that in the summer of 2020 he missed a permanent transfer to Leeds because he failed to pass the medical examinations (rumor later denied by the player).
In May he returns to Bayern Munich, and with the new season the rumors and speeches around him become more and more crazy and dark. In September has a fight in training with third goalkeeper Steve Ulrich; intervenes in sliding with hammer foot and damages the ligaments of the knee. Nagelsmann, who didn’t like Cuisance before, sees it even worse. He does not play even a minute, and is part of the group of no-vax players to whom Bayern have cut the salary. He really doesn’t miss anything.
In short, Cuisance arrives at Venice preceded by a nefarious fame. This is why he has all the air of the most intriguing purchase of January: a footballer from whom it is impossible to know what to expect, who seems to have a potentially infinite spectrum of possibilities, both above and below.
If for some reason he were to arrive with the right mindset, Cuisance would become Venezia’s most important technical resource. No one in the squad has his talent, the variety of his game. Cuisance has a large enough repertoire to do well in any situation: it is powerful and difficult to contain in transition; when he comes out of the ball he takes too many risks, and he is not very orderly, but in this he can associate well with Vacca and Ampadu, who often play cautious play as midfielders. He knows how to play long and short, dribble and shoot. Zanetti’s 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 seem to adapt well to his characteristics, but there is a rather big problem: the area of the pitch where Cuisance plays is the same one used by the best player of the team in the first round, or Mattia Aramu. They are not equal players, of course. Cuisance likes to start further away, he wants to have an influence in the possession phase at more or less any height on the pitch, while Aramu is a purer finisher. In 4-3-3 they can live together by playing one as an offensive winger and the other as a midfielder, but on paper they could take away too many balls from each other – unless they can find a spontaneous technical association that clears the field of this type of speeches.
The ability to find winning insights even in tight spaces.
As a midfielder, however, Cuisance risks taking minutes away from the other revelation of the first round, Gianluca Busio. It is legitimate to ask these questions, but that Venezia have problems of offensive quality is also evident from their numbers. Despite a decent ranking (certainly a ranking on which Zanetti would have signed at this point of the season), the team has bad statistics, especially offensive. It is the second worst for shots produced in open-play, the worst for passes completed in the penalty area and for xGs produced in open-play. Cuisance needs to help improve all of these numbers.
Venezia always has bright and ambitious ideas on the transfer market, and trying to rehabilitate a player like Cuisance is an intriguing challenge, albeit full of doubts and potential problems. First of all, it will be fundamental for him to recover his physical condition, after a few tired seasons, in which he seemed at times a former player imbolsito, at just 22 years old.