Konrad de la Fuente, imminent take-off / Ligue 1 / D14 / OL-OM / SOFOOT.com

Sensation of summer in Marseille, Konrad de la Fuente slightly disappeared from the radar at the beginning of autumn, a bit like the OM of Sampaoli. Except that today, the American winger is gradually returning to the front of the stage. Before doing soccer a sport recognized by all in the States?

It’s not every day that Olympique de Marseille offers itself a player from FC Barcelona. Even less a young crack of the Masia, favorite of Ronald Kœman on his arrival in Catalonia, and already American international since his 19 years. Add to that a surname that marks the spirits, straight out of Narcos, and you get the man who electrified the Marseille summer: Konrad de la Fuente. Scorer from his first appearances in preparation, decisive passer against Bordeaux and Saint-Étienne in Ligue 1 in August, but above all twirling, aerial and spectacular on his left wing: the American winger quickly won over, before scoring a serious blow. stop this fall. Nothing alarming for a 20-year-old player who is playing his first season at the highest level.

“At La Masia, they had never seen an American, they wanted to know what Miami looks like, etc. But after eight years with them, I was just another Spaniard.  »

From Miami to the Commandery

“This is my first professional season with a new team, a new country, a new championship. I’m just trying to adapt, it’s different football. I must manage to maintain my level at the highest level, constantly ” , recognizes besides the first interested, lucid on its decline of mode of the last weeks. Before packing for Marseille this summer, the 20-year-old American had known only two cities: Miami, where he grew up, then Barcelona. A roaming that he tells through football: “I started playing when I was 4 or 5 in Miami. At first it wasn’t really my thing, then I got a taste for it. We arrived in Spain where I played for two different teams (Tecnofútbol then Damm, editor’s note). There, Barça began to supervise me, I signed. I spent eight years there.  » While the father, a diplomat, was busy at the Consulate General of Haiti, little Konrad therefore integrated into the Masia, in the midst of the future generation of Pedri, Fati or Gavi: “I was new, everyone was curious. They had never seen an American, they wanted to know what Miami is like, etc. But after eight years with them, I was just another Spaniard.  »

Another Spaniard who rehearses his ranges at La Masia, like everyone else. “We did the same things, the same training, regardless of age, from the youngest to the first team. We learn the basics, including possession, how to move tactically to get the best out of each person and the team ” , replays today the winger, who mainly remembers the first time he crossed Messi: “I was 14 years old. He just walked in front of me, but it was very cool.  » At the Masia, De la Fuente recites his scales, without however formatting himself. And for good reason: since his childhood in Miami, Konrad has been captivated by the charm of Brazilian culture, and especially of its players. A ball-to-toe romanticism that the American has never denied. “I am a real winger. Today we see a lot of winger who like to step into the game, who can play number 10 or 8. I’m the opposite, details the Marseillais. I’m fast, I like to dribble to cause one-on-one and create danger from the outside.  » Either the prototype of the ideal winger in the eyes of Jorge Sampaoli.

The American dream

It is therefore quite logical that in the summer of 2021, in search of playing time after a season in the shadows at Barça (3 appearances with the pros), Konrad de la Fuente leaves Barcelona –  » a difficult choice  » – and joined the South of France. For three small million euros, OM offers the crack KDLF, seduced by the game project of the Argentine coach, by the club and helped by his bases in French, thanks to his Haitian origins. Even if, on site, it is Spanish that integrates it: “I’m lucky to have Spanish players in the locker room, I go out with them outside of training to eat together in town or whatever.  » After its summer full of promises, the « Kingsley Coman of the Old Port » however dropped the flag. After several weeks of struggle, and a slight improvement in the game, De la Fuente gives a glimpse of why: “I didn’t expect Ligue 1 to be such a physical, intense championship. Now I understood that I had to have more intensity, especially defensively. This is what I have worked on a lot since my arrival, and I continue.  »

“It’s interesting to have a coach like Sampaoli who sees what needs to be improved, and who knows where we need to progress to reach our potential.  »

We almost forget that we are talking about a 20-year-old kid, who has never played a full season in a first team, him the former resident of the Barça reserve. “Young players like me, we still have a lot to learn to reach our potential. It’s interesting to have a coach like Sampaoli who sees what needs to be improved, and who knows where to progress to reach this level ” , also recognizes the former Barcelona, ​​who has fun under the orders of the Argentinian: “In my post, it’s very similar to what I experienced in Barcelona. It’s the surrounding championship that changes, that means that I have to work more defensively, have more intensity. But other than that, it’s pretty similar.  » Either way, don’t count on Konrad de la Fuente to change his way of being, and of playing: « Everyone must be themselves, show their personality and do what they know how to do, be comfortable » , hammers the player from the top of his 20 years.

The sign of a man with a cool head, but who keeps his ideas clear and the ambitions that go with them. In Marseille, this translates into a podium goal, and the desire to lift the Europa League and / or the Coupe de France this year. In the selection – where he has not been called recently – Konrad de la Fuente is obviously talking about the World Cup. But not necessarily the one we think: “We all know that we have a very good team, even if they are very young. If we can play together, we can do something good at the next World Cup. We do not need to reach that of 2026 here.  » With one goal in sight: “To make football more popular in the United States, to make the younger generations want to play football.  » An American dream that is already passing through Groupama Stadium this Sunday at 9 p.m., where a small goal from the American rocket might allow it to finally take off. And this time for good.

By Adrien Hémard
Interview by AH.

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