In Profile: Kenny Tete

Drew Heatley 11th September 2020

Drew Heatley takes a closer look at the latest signing to come through the doors at Motspur Park.

Full-backs in the modern game are bloody important. And after the signing of Antonee Robinson to push my saviour and yours, Joe Bryan, on the left, I’m delighted that we’ve bolstered our options on the right with the signing of Kenny Tete – for a startlingly low price of €3.2m (£2.96m).

The headline facts are these: Kenny is a 24-year-old Dutch international right-back who (like recent recruit Alphonse Areola) has traded in Champions League football for a Premier League survival scrap with Fulham. The player arrives from Lyon on a four-year deal. But what can we expect?

Elite education

Tete started his career in Amsterdam. He started at acclaimed amateur club AVV Zeeburgia, noted for supplying a number of Dutch international stars throughout the years, former Fulham defender, Timothy Fosu-Mensah. So Ajax was the logical next step.

Having developed in the youth ranks and Ajax’s second-string side, Jong Ajax, Tete made it to the first team squad in 2014, aged 19. He made his real breakthrough in 2014/15, making a name for himself with his tenacious and physical style. His penchant for a well-timed sliding challenge benefited the Dutch giants on many occasions, made him a firm fan favourite, and attracted interest from Bayern Munich in 2016.

Though he never picked up an Eredivisie, Tete was part of the promising crop of youngsters that reached Ajax’s first European final in more than 20 years, as they fell to Manchester United in the Europa League Final in 2017.  Tete played 11 times in Ajax’s ultimately fruitless run, but in the league he struggled to break into the side, with recent Brighton recruit Joël Veltman restricting Kenny to just five Eredivisie appearances.

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France calling

That summer, Tete moved to Lyon in a deal worth €3m (£2.77m). It was at Les Gones that Kenny really found his feet. He helped Lyon to two consecutive third place finishes in his first two seasons. And though they finished a disappointing seventh last season, Lyon reached the Champions League final, losing 3-0 to Bayern Munich in Lisbon. Tete made cameo appearances as Lyon knocked out Juventus and Manchester City, and got 20 minutes under his belt as Lyon fell at the final hurdle.

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Dutch strong style

Tete isn’t known for his pace, though he’s got a driving commitment that makes up for any lack of natural speed. His real strength is his defensive fervour. Not shy to put a leg in, he’s known for his full-blooded style. But he’s not reckless; it’s the timing of his tackles that make Kenny stand out. He chips in with an assist here and there – four being his best tally during his first season for Lyon – but it’s his solid defensive foundations on which he’s built his success. We might not be driving forward too many times this season, so a player with a passion for actually defending is a plus.

Right-hand-side rotation

Tete’s no stranger to competition, and has endured – nay, thrived on – rotation at both his previous clubs. It bodes well for a condensed Premier League season where he may well need to switch with Cyrus Christie and even Denis Odoi.

This isn’t a mercenary coming in to collect some coin. This is a young player with a point to prove. The cheap price tag no doubt reflects the fact that Tete’s been unable to hold down a starting berth consistently at Ajax or Lyon. But it’s easy to forget that he’s only 24. With two-dozen international caps for a resurgent young Dutch side and appearances in a Europa and Champions League final, he’s well on his way – and we’re set to reap the benefits of his next chapter as he aims to prove he can be the main man on the right-hand-side of our defence.