There’s a new guy in town. Tall, versatile and still young. Fulham have secured the services of Terence Kongolo until the end of the season. Ben Jarman gives us the lowdown on our new defender.
You may see some negative press from Terriers fans about his antics this season, but, this could genuinely be exciting for us. Many of you may remember the Dutch overcoming the odds at the 2014 World Cup to a third place finish in Brazil. Well, in that squad was a little known 20 year-old who went by the name of Terence Kongolo. A relative unknown, but trusted enough by Louis Van Gaal to be one of a new legion of centre-halves at that tournament. Out with the old of Mathijsen and Heitinga and in with De Vrij, Vlaar, Kongolo and Martins Indi.
Now, let’s not get carried away here. Kongolo did only make a fleeting appearance against Chilé, but his form for Feyenoord was hugely impressive for someone of his young age. Feyenoord enjoyed a period of immense success during the early 90s winning three titles, but that honour eluded them until 2016, when, with Kongolo at the heart of their defence, they secured the title for the first time in more than 20 years.
They went on to secure another a KNVB Cup and two supporters shield victories with Terence in their ranks, and it wasn’t long before a move was on the cards. But before we get to that, let’s talk a little bit about what Kongolo brings to the table. Under Van Bronkhorst, Feyenoord played slick, fast-flowing football that played through the thirds and relied on incisive passing. But, unlike the Ajax team you see today, or the Dutch national team, Feyenoord were tighter at the back and registered 17 clean sheets with Kongolo playing centre-half. The influence of the former full-back Van Bronkhorst was there for all to see. And this is where Kongolo stood out, replacing mercurial Joris Mathijsen at the back and becoming and imposing leader.
His presence was felt across the back line as Feyenoord marched towards a historic title. But whilst many plaudits landed at the feet of star striker Nikolai Jorgensen, Kongolo had massively impressed. A storming centre-half whose height allows him to win aerial battles over opposition strikers with crisp passing that allows counters to start from source. Kongolo was part of a new wave of Dutch centre-halves, no longer were they slow and intelligent; he is raw, quick and no-nonsense.
Finally, a move away from the famous De Kuip followed, as Kongolo went to the riches of AS Monaco and their iconic Stade Louis II stadium. In what felt like an excellent move at the time, and given Monaco’s track record for cultivating young players in to world class talent for huge profit (see also: Thomas Lemar, Kylian Mbappé & Ben Mendy), it was hoped that Kongolo would skyrocket in much the same way. However, he never really settled in the French principality and saw his development stunted by the excellence of Kamil Glik, Jemerson and the veteran Andrea Raggi. Kongolo’s ball playing style did not seem to sit with the identity of Leandro Jardim’s outfit and as such, was moved on. Perhaps the wonderkid tag bestowed to him may weighed too heavily on his head.
The bright lights and chilling winds of the John Smith’s stadium beckoned, and following a very impressive six-month loan an £18m move followed. That loan spell announced the arrival of Kongolo on to the Premier League stage, and he demonstrated the tools that excited scouts across Europe once again. The dogged determination, the physicality in the air and, as you will see in SW6, the ability to also play at left-back. Although looking rangy, being 6″2, Terence possesses a great turn of foot and plays a head-up style of football that Fulham fans crave. Of late, the Terriers and Kongolo have struggled. Their Premier League campaign was over, realistically, by the middle of March and talisman David Wagner was replaced by ex-Borussia Dortmund reserve coach Jan Seibert. Kongolo’s form dipped with the departure of his former manager and his start to Championship life has been a difficult one, with Huddersfield having a slow start and further managerial change.
However, a new lease of life in the capital will be a fresh start for a player that, genuinely is an exciting prospect. At 25, Kongolo has room for growth and has demonstrated the qualities needed to become an excellent centre-half. If Fulham are to revert at a formation that includes 3 centre-halves as we’ve seen over the course of the season, then this transfer makes sense. Working on the left hand side of Ream, his pace can cover any mistakes and his passing could spur the midfield in to action moving the ball quickly. This also frees up Joe Bryan to have an advanced attacking influence on the game.
Six months with Fulham gives him and the club a massive opportunity, lets hope he takes it.