RANDAL KOLO MUANI: ALL ROADS LEAD TO PARIS
In the strenuous world of football, there are often players who must toil in the shadows for far longer than deserved. They spend years putting in the graft, yearning for that single opportunity to flex their muscles on the biggest stage. The game’s latest discovery is a true Parisian, born and bred, and he has returned to the City of Lights with a major point to prove.
Recent years have witnessed the mainstream awakening to the prowess of PSG's Randal Kolo Muani. His electrifying display during the 2022 season on loan with Eintracht Frankfurt seized the attention of France's head coach, Didier Deschamps, giving him the opportunity to mark a seismic turning point in his career during the Qatar World Cup. The young Frenchman was propelled into the global spotlight, garnering recognition, and admiration from millions worldwide, and he kindly took the time to share with us some of the intimacies of life in the footballing spotlight.
Randal was born in Bondy, a commune found in the north-eastern suburbs of Paris, a region that also nurtured the likes of Kylian Mbappé and Wiliam Saliba. We probed him with questions, trying to suss out what it is about this town that produces such footballing greatness. To our dismay, Randal couldn’t provide the code, so I guess we’ll have to wait. Nonetheless, he embodies the essence of Paris. He speaks of playing football at school, and amongst the vitality of the Parisian streets, within the walls of football cages.
Street football, or “Ballon sur Bitume”, is and always has been a major part of his hometown’s culture, giving rise to some of the world’s leading ballers. It was here where Randal became truly enamoured with the game and was able to translate his reverence of his footballing idols into his own skillset. He spent time echoing their playstyles and compiling what is now, his pwn trademark set of skills. We were curious on who those idols might be, and where Randal drew inspiration from to become such a versatile attacking force. He shared with us a strong love and admiration for Neymar, but pointed towards Luis Suarez as an archetypal striker, from who he has learnt a lot. Then came the teachers of technique. He started with Ronaldo Nazario. He followed with Ronaldinho. He then eventually landed on the entire Brazil team of that era. Not a bad group to try and parallel…
Kolo gave us stories of playing with older and bigger guys during his early days kicking ball, and looking at his game, you can really tell. He plays with the awareness, and footballing IQ, that is reflective of someone who has had to cope with physical differences from the early onset of their career. The tenacity that’s bred in the Parisian streets can be seen in heaps within the relentless and uncompromising playing style of PSG's new number 23.
Kolo Muani's dedication to the sport is unwavering and deserves its flowers. He has always set his sights on footballing success and remains unfazed by the temptations of the modern game. Family is clearly a true pillar in his life and plays a pivotal role in his steadfast determination. If ever there was a moment where his concentration might falter, Randal can always count on his father to keep him in check. The patriarch of the family has always instilled within his son the discipline necessary to make it to the top. Whether it be calling him back from football training in Italy to return for school or discouraging him from the excessive spending habits that can sometimes get the better of modern-day ballers, he is a strong presence in his son’s career.
Having kicked off his career through climbing the ranks of academy football in Nantes, Kolo reminisced on what was a slightly turbulent inception to his professional journey. He looked back on some inconsistencies in his game, and how they hindered his opportunity to break into the first team. It was a subsequent loan spell at Boulogne sur-Mer that reignited the flame within him. Upon his return, he was refocused and ready to take the league by storm. And as the proverb reads, you reap what you sow. Randal's years of discipline and hard work culminated in some considerable numbers…
7 years at Nantes forged a perennial bond between Randal and his boyhood club. He spoke of winning his first trophy there, and how it was the club that made him realise his potential to be one of the frontrunners of football’s next wave of generational talents. It’s for this reason that Kolo can still be spotted every now and again, in the stands of the Stade de la Beaujoire. He concluded by expressing his gratitude for a club that will always have a special place in his heart.
We wanted an insight on what it’s like to be a target man in the Bundesliga. He told us that he is a player who really relishes exploiting the space behind defenders. He added that maybe he was lucky to land himself in a league where defenders tend to press high up the pitch and contribute to the attack, leaving spaced behind them… A humble take from a man with 43 goal contributions in 50 games.
So, it was an amazing first season at Frankfurt, and it was during his preparations for the next season when Randal received a call that would truly change his life. He recalls being in Japan with his teammates, when Didier Deschamps told him to get on the next flight from Tokyo to Doha. He wasn’t a fan of the 18-hour flight but given that it was his lifelong dream to represent his country, he firmed it… He was brought on against Morocco in the semi-final, and 44 seconds later, Randal bagged. His reaction? “Honestly, I wanted to cry. I was so happy.” A fair response.
"I think it’s important to learn from your mistakes. It was a final that we should’ve won, and we definitely had the quality to win it...”
Obviously, Randal, along with his French teammates, didn’t have the fairy-tale ending to the campaign that they sought, losing in the final to Argentina. Kolo even had an opportunity to bury the game, but heroics from goalkeeper, Emiliano Martinez, kept him from hitting the back of the net. For a man still so young, he looks back on this moment with sheer pragmatism, already scheming a new approach to ensure victory in their next final.
“I think it’s important to learn from your mistakes. It was a final that we should’ve won, and we definitely had the quality to win it. I think that at our next final, we’ll have more experience, and we’ll launch ourselves fully into it, the way a final needs to be played.”
So, what happens after a monumental season like this? Talks of a big summer transfer…
And for Randal, all roads led to Paris… He told us that since his first time kicking a football, it was a dream to represent his city on the pitch. He did, however, share that there were moments where he feared the transfer may fall through. He was modestly aware of his value to Frankfurt, knowing that “they wanted to keep [him] for the long-term” but that they understood that signing for your dream club is an opportunity not to be missed. He expressed extraordinary pride in signing for Paris, but also a sincere gratitude to the city that was his home for the season.
So, €95million later, and Randal has the opportunity of a lifetime: to take his hometown to the top, leading from the front alongside his compatriots, Kylian Mbappé and Ousmane Dembélé. We asked him about the benefits of playing with certain players at both domestic and national levels:
“It’s great to play with them at national level after playing with them at the same club. But now, it’s down to us to improve and perfect our chemistry, on and off the pitch. We’ve already got a great understanding between us as people and players, but now it’s time to really show this on the pitch.”
This also gave him a moment to praise PSG’s new young talisman, Warren Zaïre-Emery, commenting on his recent call-up to the France squad:
“I think Warren is doing very very well, and frankly, his selection for the national team is well-deserved. He works very hard. He listens and is always open to advice. He’ll go very far if he continues like this.”
The crux of Randal's game lies in his attacking versatility. He seamlessly transitions between commanding the wing and leading from the front as a striker. Beyond his celebrated goalscoring prowess, his selflessness also demands attention. Capitalising on his strength and blistering pace, he exploits spaces behind defenders, adept at both scoring and providing crucial assists. His game is packed with finesse, so much so that it has drawn comparisons to the style of another Frenchman named Thierry Henry – heard of him?
Now, as much as his life revolves around football, Randal, like all of us, needs time to relax. Although, from speaking with him, it sounds like it’s not an easy task turning his football brain off, he even loves to work out and train on his off days, which you’ve just got to respect. However, he also informed us of how important his sleep is to him, and how he’ll capitalise on the opportunities to get some extra shuteye. Beyond this though, Randal loves to kick back and play PlayStation, but obviously, it’s FIFA that he’s playing. Funnily enough, he avidly collects the cards of his footballing friends and adds them to the ranks of his Ultimate Team. He eagerly awaits the chance to take on his new teammates in some furious competition.
A GAFFER interview wouldn’t be complete without asking Randal about his music taste and who’s got his attention right now. Revealing he’s a hip-hop head, Randal shared some of his favourite French and Belgian artists with us, the likes of Ninho who takes the top spot, Gazo, Leto, and Hamza. He put us on to a collab between French rapper, Tiakola, and our very own, Dave, also adding that he listens to Central Cee and Lil Baby, from elsewhere in the world. We wanted to quickly gauge what Kolo’s stance was on the football and music convergence, and he said:
“Yeah, that’s a dream for me too. Maybe not right now, but it’s definitely something I have dreamed about. I want to try singing at some point, not rap I don’t think. Maybe after my football career. I don’t think it’s at the same place yet in France, as it is in England. Maybe because of the media, and the pressures of the game, I don’t know, but it’s just not there yet.”
Beyond his sporting endeavours, Muani exhibits a keen interest in fashion, playfully entertaining the idea of becoming an ambassador for his favourite brand, Dior, after his football career. But in all honesty, we have found someone who has an unparalleled laser focus on the game, from which there are no signs of deterrence. He ended his chat with us with this:
“I’m at PSG now, and I’m doing well, I’m happy here. I’m trying to win everything here, to score plenty of goals, and to make the supporters very proud.”
PSG have secured a fantastic new talent, a football enthusiast, driven by what the French would call a “joie de vivre”. With extremely high aspirations, and an unrelenting drive, there's little doubt that Randal Kolo Muani is on the right trajectory to achieve it all.