Ismaël Koné is one of the big winners of the latest Championship market value update. The 20-year-old Canadian men’s national team player has seen his market value increase by 66.7% from €6 million to €10m. That increase makes Koné the joint fourth most valuable Canadian player, together with Porto’s Stephen Eustaquio. As part of the market value update, Transfermarkt caught up with the young Watford star for an exclusive interview.
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“Not so much, to be fair,” Koné said when he was asked whether he pays attention to his market value. “These are stats that are more important for my agent and club executives. I need to focus on my craft, and that is on the field. Great consistent performances are what I am seeking, and the rest will just follow naturally, just like it did when I was with CF Montréal.”
Nonetheless, Koné’s rise in market value has been incredible. Only two years ago, Koné was still playing amateur football in Canada with CS Saint-Laurent. Signed halfway through the 2021 Major League Soccer season, Koné quickly developed into a starter for CF Montréal and also received a call-up by John Herdman, making his debut for Canada in March 2022 against Costa Rica (0-1).
Ismaël Koné at Watford – Meteoric rise is like “a dream”
“A dream, but one that I have envisioned since I was a young boy,” Koné said when he was asked about his meteoric rise through the football ranks. “It was football, or I don’t know what else. From the trials in Belgium during COVID to my time with CF Montréal, these are steps that helped me grow on and off the field. But the dream of earning a living playing this game has always been in place since I have been a young boy. It is up to me now to reach the highest level of football and take advantage of the talent that was given to me.”
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Koné joined Watford from Montréal in January in a deal worth €8m, and the young Canadian has since featured in 17 games across all competitions (one assist). Best described as a ball-carrying box-to-box central midfielder, Koné ranks in the top 81% among peers playing in a similar competition than the Championship when it comes to progressive runs, in the top 88% when it comes to progressive passes, and top 91% when it comes to successful take-ons. (via FBREF). According to Wyscout, Koné has successfully completed 68.3% of his 61.3 actions per 90 minutes since joining Watford, completing 86% of his passes and 84.4% of his dribbles.
Ismaël Koné in action for Championship side Watford
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In fact, it feels like Koné has made almost a seamless transition from life in MLS to the Championship. But what has that transition felt like for Koné on the pitch? “The intensity and physicality of the Championship is higher than in MLS,” Koné said. “Tactically, it will always depend on the club we are facing, but I would say the two leagues are similar in that sense. The Championship feels like a very good school for players wanting to get ready for the Premier League.”
Ismaël Koné: Move to Watford important for personal development
“For me personally, it has been fruitful in many ways, with also many challenges due to the coaching changes we’ve had, but this is part of football, and we need to be capable of adapting to every situation,” Koné added. Indeed, since Koné arrived, Watford has had three different coaches. Slaven Bilic was in charge when Koné arrived but was released on March 7. Next came Chris Wilder, who was in charge of Watford until May 10, when he was replaced by Valérien Ismaël.
Ismaël will now be in charge heading into the new season in which Watford will try to return to the Premier League. “Watford, in my eyes, is a Premier League club,” Koné said. “We must remain far more consistent next season, play with passion, and believe that we belong in the Premier League. We have a great side with great players; the mentality will also be key to bringing Watford back where they belong.”
Playing in the Premier League is, without a doubt, one of Koné’s biggest dreams, even if he lists Real Madrid as his favorite club. As for his favorite players, Koné doesn’t model himself after any player particularly but enjoys watching Neymar, even if he plays in a very different position. For now, however, both Madrid and Neymar still appear a couple of steps away for the young Canadian, who will focus on helping Watford return to the Premier League. But with a new market value of €10m, Koné is certainly another step closer to the big stars and already can be mentioned in the same breath as other Canadian household names, Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David.