PROFILE | Kevin Danso: Can Lens keep their diamond of a centre-back a secret?

This is taken from the GFFN 100, our leading 150-page FREE publication ranking the best 100 players in France, see the full list and read every profile right here.

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The development of Kevin Danso since his move to Ligue 1 has been quite remarkable, one that seems synonymous with Lens’ consolidation as a top team in France’s first tier – and consolidation is the word for Danso’s 2022. The former Milton Keynes and Reading academy product was known as a young Bundesliga talent when he joined Lens from Augsburg in 2021, but that raw talent has been refined into something much more robust in the last 12 months.

Danso is perfectly placed at the centre of Franck Haise’s back three. Although it’s a spot often reserved for more conservative of centre-back options, Danso is anything but. During his 1350 minutes of football this season so far, the Austrian has undertaken his defensive duties expertly. His pace and physicality match most tricky Ligue 1 attackers and he possesses a dominating presence in the air, winning, on average, 2.48 aerial duels per 90 minutes. The 24-year old was dominant in tight matches against Marseille and Lyon in the first half of the 2022/23 season, pocketing the likes of Alexis Sánchez and Alexandre Lacazette.

However, his most noteworthy attributes are on the ball, as a centre-back who can step up into midfield areas, create space, and progress the ball to more advanced playmakers such as Séko Fofana, or Lens’ forward playing wing-backs. This is reflected in a pass completion rate of 86.9%, which is impressive considering the elevated level of risk the Austrian takes when stepping into midfield.

His forward movement is allowed by the likes of midfielder Salis Abdul Samed dropping into his defensive positions, which means the Austrian can get on the ball and cause confusion for defending opponents with a level of versatility that is expected from a Franck Haise player. Whilst it’s a shame that he hasn’t had the opportunity to show his capabilities in the World Cup, it might be best for Lens to keep their diamond of a centre-back under wraps for a little while longer.

George Boxall | GFFN