Seventeen years after Lilian Thuram took his first step towards becoming a French footballing icon by making his AS Monaco FC debut, his cousin Yohann Thuram-Ulien has reignited the family's love affair with the principality.
Lilian's debut in May 1991 marked the start of a trophy-filled career with club and country, crowned by the classy defender winning the 1998 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2000™, as well as becoming Les Bleus' most-capped international. Having only made his Ligue 1 bow in Monaco's 1-0 defeat of AJ Auxerre last weekend, Yohann accepts he has some way to go to emulate the achievements of his illustrious relative, who finally ended his playing days this summer.
'Just a cousin'
"We didn't concede a goal, so it was a good start," said the 20-year-old, who replaced the injured Flavio Roma 36 minutes into the game in Burgundy. "There's no need to get carried away, though. I haven't proved anything yet. It's all well and good being called Thuram, but I'm just his cousin. I've only just started my career and I hope to show I can be trusted in the coming weeks."
With Roma's thigh injury requiring three weeks' treatment and first-choice custodian Stéphane Ruffier sidelined until the new year with a fractured hand, Thuram-Ulien will get his chance to earn coach Ricardo Gomes's trust against FC Sochaux-Montbéliard on Sunday. The level-headed youngster, who honed his reflexes by keeping goal for the France Under-21 futsal team, knows there is at least one expert in his family whom he can call on for advice on the senior game.
'Hardest to come'
"Lilian called me straight after the [Auxerre] match to congratulate me and tell me he was proud of me," said Thuram-Ulien, who joined Monaco's youth academy on the advice of his cousin. "But he also told me that the hardest part was still to come, because you can't rest on your laurels. You have to continue to work. He told me I hadn't achieved anything, that I'd just started. But he was very happy for me."
Born in the Paris region, Thuram-Ulien spent much of his childhood in Guadeloupe, making the opposite journey to his more famous family member, before linking up with Monaco's youth set-up as a 14-year-old. Having signed professional terms in pre-season, Thuram-Ulien had been expected to be the side's third-choice shot-stopper. However, the club's goalkeeping coach André Biancarelli believes the tyro has the talent and stature to cope with his startling ascent.
"Yohann has good athletic and technical qualities," said Biancarelli. "He's rigorous, hard-working and professional. He's got all the qualities needed to ensure his career continues on an upward trajectory. Working with two experienced goalkeepers every day can only help him improve."
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