The video is now notorious. Loïc Badé, walking with an arm draped over the shoulder of Sevilla’s revered Sporting Director Monchi, pleading to the 54-year-old Spaniard to “Please, please sign me!” Monchi replied, “It is already done!” It turns out it is. Badé, who has had an absolute rollercoaster of a start to his professional career, is joining Sevilla permanently this summer, while Monchi has apparently asked to leave Sevilla.
This is the sort of thing that typifies Badé’s early career. He finds the destination that he believes is right for him, and then a change is thrust on him unexpectedly. Badé has persevered through these situations now and if Sevilla can be the home that he needs, they can benefit from another of the absolute plethora of talented young center backs being produced in France.
Loïc Badé was born in Sevres, France, a southwestern suburb of Paris in 2000 to Ivorian parents. As a kid, he made his trips across the Seine to train at AC Boulogne Billancourt where he played his youth football and where he was eventually noticed by Paris FC. Paris represented a big step up for Badé as their first team was comfortably in the 3rd tier or higher. ACBB was typically in the 6th tier of French football and Badé’s trajectory was headed in the right direction.
As he continued to grow both in height and physical strength, his attributes as a commanding center back were obvious from an early age. He wins aerial duels with regularity but it is his ability to anticipate danger and cut it out, as well as his ability to keep skillful dribblers from going past him that set him apart at Paris. The technique that we so often associate with young attackers from Paris was just the sort of competition that a young center back needed to push himself to be his best. He consistently was among the best in Paris’ youth setup and it was this performance in their academy which allowed him to move to the coast where he cut his teeth professionally.
Le Havre made a move for the youngster when he was still just 17 and he rocketed through their youth ranks. At 17, he was with the U19s. At 18, he was with Le Havre II and playing against grown men in the Championnat National 2, the fourth tier. By 19, he was on the fringe of first-team football with a Le Havre side that was in contention at the top of Ligue 2 on an annual basis.
On January 10, 2020, Badé made his professional debut at center back for Les Ciel et Marine against Chamois Niortais FC. 90 minutes and a clean sheet on his debut felt like the exact right way to start off his professional career and it seemed like his impact on Le Havre was positive.
They kept three straight clean sheets in his first three appearances and only allowed five goals in the seven matches he participated in for Le Havre. Despite only making those seven Ligue 2 appearances, his performance for Le Havre B and his impact made enough of an impression on the eventually promoted side RC Lens to have a look at the youngster.
As luck would have it for Lens, Badé was out of contract at Le Havre and available for free. They did not need a second invitation as they wrapped up the contract and brought Badé with them to Ligue 1. Lens defied all expectations that year (as they have continued to do) and finished seventh in Ligue 1 with Badé playing a key part in a decent, if not great defense next to Jonathan Gradit and Facundo Medina.
At the heart of the back three, Badé was meant to be the anchor. Heading away danger and stopping any central attacks was his remit and he did it admirably. Lens finished with a positive one-goal difference which for a team that was seemingly outgunned up and down the table was a significantly impressive performance. Badé seemed to have found his new home but again, the rug was pulled out from under him.
After earning promotion in 2020, Lens missed out on European football on the final day of their first two seasons back in Ligue 1.
Today, they’re headed to the UEFA Champions League group stage, ending a 21-year drought from the competition and finishing one point behind PSG. pic.twitter.com/iyMhAAj8QW
— Breaking The Lines (@BTLvid) June 9, 2023
Despite being bullish initially about not parting with Bade for anything less than €30 million, RC Lens faced pressure to balance their books from the DNCG, French Football’s financial regulators. This meant that Stade Rennais, who had been in for Bade and had been climbing the table themselves, were able to secure a deal for just €17 million.
Badé was immediately placed in a defensive pair at Rennes with Nayef Aguerd but the pair never seemed to settle. Badé was the casualty of the two as he eventually lost his consistent starting spot next to Aguerd to Warmed Omari. After a stop-start spell in and out of the starting lineup, Rennes suffered a 2-1 loss to Clermont Foot, and this was the beginning of the end for Badé’s time in Rennes.
Having come on for Omari for just the final minute of a win over Stade Brestois (where he assisted Martin Terrier’s winner) he suffered an adductor injury which kept him out of the team the rest of the season. After 21 appearances in all competitions, it seemed his time at Rennes was up. In 2022, he was signed on a season-long loan by Nottingham Forest (I mean, who wasn’t?) and the strangest year of his career began to unfold.
Badé’s signing seemed odd from the very beginning for Forest. He was the seventh (7th!) center back on Forest’s roster and was signed on the same day as Wilfried Boly, with Moussa Niakhaté, Giulian Biancone and Cheikhou Kouyaté having already been added just that window. The mess of Forest’s roster made for difficult navigation. Badé simply could not find his way into the first-team squad. He was named in just one of Steve Cooper’s matchday squads and even then watched from the bench as Scott McKenna and Steve Cook (two players who were at Forest in the Championship) were preferred at center back.
Forest slumped to a 1-0 loss to Wolves at Molineux and despite six more opportunities, Badé was not named in a single matchday squad. On New Year’s Eve, as the clock marched towards 2023, his loan was terminated by Nottingham Forest and his next destination had already been decided. Monchi and Sevilla had come calling.
Badé joined a Sevilla side on the brink. They were 18th in La Liga and going down to the Segunda as it stood. Their attack was anemic but their defense was even worse, having allowed 23 goals in just 15 matches. Manager Jorge Sampaoli, so lauded on his arrival as the man to take Sevilla to the top level of Spanish football, simply did not have the answers. The arrival of Badé started to turn Sevilla’s fortunes around almost immediately.
They won four of his first six appearances and only lost six of the 19 matches he appeared in for Sevilla in La Liga. Despite starting in a back three under Sampaoli, Sevilla switched to a back four when José Luis Mendilibar took over. Badé started next to veteran Nemanja Gudelj throughout the season with Karim Rekik and Tanguy Nianzou rotating in and out of the partnership. Badé was the constant throughout. With Sevilla headed for safety, another situation was developing. Sevilla were making waves in the Europa League again.
Despite being so heavily challenged domestically, Sevilla, as they are wont to do, were irresistible in the Europa League. They were just good enough on the road but the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium was a fortress. Taking a 2-2 result at Old Trafford, which Badé did not take part in, they headed home and grabbed a stunning 3-0 result against an in-form and heavily favored Manchester United team.
The French loanee grabbed the second that night, rising highest to meet Ivan Rakitić’s corner and sending the home fans into raptures. When they similarly came away from Turin with a 1-1 result against Juventus, it felt like maybe it was Sevilla’s competition again. In the second leg, it was Erik Lamela’s 95th-minute goal that sent Sevilla to its sixth Europa League (or UEFA Cup) Final.
Badé was at the heart of some controversy in the final, as it was deemed by many Roma fans and José Mourinho that he had handled a cross that should have led to a penalty for the Italian club. However, it was Badé and company who had the last laugh as they won via penalties.
So Badé’s bizarre season, which began with a nightmare spell at Nottingham Forest, ended with European silverware. Sevilla looks to be Badé’s home for now, with that permanent transfer he asked Monchi for being granted. Will he settle there or could another big move be on the horizon if Badé continues to impress in Andalusia? The signs, for now, are that he’s finally found the place where he can show us exactly what he is made of.
By: Phil Baki / @PhilTalksFooty
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / NurPhoto