Christian Kouame: Fiorentina striker aims to repay Ivory Coast coach’s faith – BBC News

Ivory Coast's Christian Kouame in action for Italian club Fiorentina
Ivory Coast’s Christian Kouame in action for Italian club Fiorentina

Fiorentina striker Christian Kouame says he is determined to repay the faith shown in him by the Ivory Coast coach Patrice Beaumelle.

The 23-year-old has been called up to the Elephants’ squad for some upcoming friendlies despite an average season in Italy on loan at Fiorentina, scoring just twice in 36 appearances as the club finished 13th in Serie A.

He is now looking to add to the three senior caps that he has earned so far, with Ivory Coast set to play Burkina Faso and Ghana in June.

“He (Patrice Beaumelle) has faith in me and has always demonstrated he cares about me,” the Bingerville-born forward told BBC Sport Africa.

“He calls me regularly and came to visit me when we faced FC Torino. Now it’s my turn to repay him for that.”

Kouame feels he is getting back to his best after spending six months on the side lines with a cruciate ligament injury he suffered playing for Ivory Coast at the 2019 Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

The issue did not stop Ivory Coast qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics from the tournament nor did it deter Fiorentina from taking him on loan from Serie A rivals Genoa.

“I feel I owe myself and the club something,” he said.

“Things didn’t go as planned for us this season and the atmosphere got quite tense. I feel much better now, I have put the injury fully behind me and I am confident things will improve.

“All I can do is work hard, learn from our mistakes and build on what we did well. I am grateful to Fiorentina for what they did for me and I am willing to repay that on the pitch.”

Holidays can wait

Christian Kouame in action for Ivory Coast
Christian Kouame’s three caps for Ivory Coast have all been in friendly games.

Kouame will also be hoping that if he can impress with the senior team at the training camp he will also make it into the squad for the Tokyo Olympics in June.

“When I injured my knee and returned to Italy and underwent surgery, I was so sad to leave my teammates behind,” he reflected.

“We all want to take part in the tournament. The Olympics are a unique event and an opportunity which normally comes up once in a lifetime.”

“We have been drawn in a group with Brazil, Germany and Saudi Arabia, we know it won’t be easy but we want to prove ourselves.

“I have spoken to Junior Traoré from (Italian club) Sassuolo, we are good friends.

“We will meet at the training camp and hope together for a call-up for Tokyo. I also know (Manchester United’s) Amad Diallo, he’s also a very good player; any good player is welcome because we need everyone’s help!”

With each team at the men’s Olympic football tournament allowed to add three ‘overage’ players to an under-24 squad Kouame has revealed that AC Milan’s Franck Kessie, who was born just before the 1 January 1997 cut-off date, would like to play,

“We have important senior players too, but it’s not my call to decide who to invite. I know for a fact that Franck Kessie would like to join; we are friends too and he said that to me personally,” Kouame said.

The big goal on the horizon

AC Milan's Franck Kessie (left) comes up against Ivory Coast compatriot Christian Kouame in a match against Fiorentina
Instead of playing against each other Fiorentina’s Christian Kouame (right) would like to play alongside AC Milan’s Franck Kessie for Ivory Coast

Kouame is also keen to be part of the Ivory Coast squad at the delayed Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon and is confident his side can do well in January.

“We last won the trophy in 2015 and we will try to do it again next year. We have a strong team, with players from Manchester United, Tottenham, Arsenal, AC Milan and Ajax,” he pointed out.

“We will aim for top spot – but Algeria are strong; Cameroon play at home, Morocco are a good side too.

“But we have to try, because the following edition will be held in the Ivory Coast. Can you imagine defending the title at home? The whole country would go crazy!”

What does the future hold?

Kouame insists he does not know anything about the rumours in the Italian media that he is set for a move to the English Premier League with Wolverhampton Wanderers a possible destination, given his strength, speed and ability to make the most of empty space on the pitch.

“I have heard of it too, but my agent didn’t say anything to me really,” he said.

“I have just put a strange year behind me, I know I could have done more and I am very happy in Florence.

“Everyone welcomed me with open arms; the city is beautiful and my wife and son are here with me. The club will have to tell me they don’t need me anymore, otherwise I am happy to stay.

“One day in the future I would like to play in another country though.”

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