Driven, chaotic and selfless: The real Yves Bissouma according to Mahamadou Diarra & Chris Hughton

From leaving home at the age of 12 to a big bust up with Marcelo Bielsa, Rahman Osman on Yves Bissouma’s journey from the humble village Yopougon Sicogi to Tottenham Hotspur.

In 2008, when Yves Bissouma was leaving his parents for the first time, aged only 12, he had already sold his family the dream of leaving school and becoming a footballer.

Most kids living in the small ransacked village of Yopougon Sicogi, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, dreamed of being the next Didier Zokora or Didier Drogba.

Indeed Tottenham’s new £25million signing from Brighton and Hove Albion was actually nicknamed Zokora - after the Elephants’ famous midfielder .

His first real chance at football was being selected for an U15 tournament in Bamako, Mali.

Yves Bissouma (L) playing for Mali at the AFCON. Credit: ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP via Getty Images

His local club had travelled to Mali from Ivory Coast for a kick about and Bissouma, alongside three others, was asked to come to JMG Academy, in Bamako, for a trial.

The new Spurs ace was outstanding that day and got signed up.

However Bissouma’s time at the academy was punctuated by trouble - either turning up late for training or getting into fights with senior teammates.

He was only 13 by then, and most of the guys he would play with were either 14 or 15.

According to him, moving to Mali was the hardest decision he’d ever made.

“It was hard to leave home because that is all I knew but then I knew I had to fend for myself, fight and give them something back because we did not have a lot,” Bissouma told Malifoot.com.

But despite the issues of having to grow up far from his parents and concerns of too much partying, his football skills meant he was swiftly promoted to the first team of AS Real Bamako and excelled in the Malian league.

By the summer of 2016, then aged 20, Bissouma had been sold to Lille, by what their scouts told them was the Didier Zokora.

Argentinian head coach Marcelo Bielsa (2R) talks to Lille's Ivorian forward Nicolas Pepe (L) and Lille's Malian midfielder Yves Bissouma (Photo credit should read JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images)

The big bust up with Bielsa at Lille and close friendship with Nicolas Pepe

“I first heard about him when he arrived at Lille,” Mahamadou Diarra, former Real Madrid and Mali legend, told LondonWorld.

“A couple of scouts I knew back then told me they had this guy who played like me, but they did not know if he was Ivorian or Malian but they took him from Bamako.

“They also said he had some technique but was a bit of a hot head, so I took notice and ever since he’s been really good for Brighton every time I have the chance to watch him.”

When he first joined Lille, the idea was that he would spend time with the second team, but he improved so much Marcelo Bielsa brought into the first team.

However he would soon fall out with the legendary Argentine manager who was quite keen on playing him as right-back.

Mahamadou Diarra, playing for Real Madrid, told LondonWorld about Bissouma from a young age. Credit: Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Bissouma did not enjoy playing in defence and did not hide his feelings.

He made it clear in what was a heated discussion that he was a midfielder and could give more to the team playing in the middle.

That Lille team had the likes of Thiago Mendes and Nicolas Pepe, who became close friends with Bissouma, as they shared the same agent and both dreamed of moving to England.

Bissouma and Pepe got along, and even though the midfielder just never saw -eye-to-eye with Bielsa, he remained a very selfless friend of the now Arsenal star.

They would wait to go home together after training, and given they were both technically from Ivory Coast, they had a lot in common.

The pair are still best pals, and often speak about football and life together.

Chris Hughton Manager of Brighton and Hove Albion. Credit: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

The big break through to Brighton

To be honest most of the work was done by the scouting team at Brighton, they have these really smart guys who keep looking out for for certain things and once they saw him they told me about him,” former Brighton manager Chris Hughton told Londonworld.

The former Spurs player and Newcastle boss brought Bissouma to England to play for the Seagulls.

“When he arrived he could barely said a word in English but he was helped so much by one of the nicest guys I have ever met, Gaëtan Bong,” Hughton explained.

“Bong looked after him and showed him around the city and the fans soon saw enough to get that famous song they now sing for him.

“Sadly I had just a year with him, but we knew he was special.

“He was strong and had a technique that just made him stand out.

Yves Bissouma of Brighton & Hove Albion in action during the Premier League match (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

“He would hold onto the ball and not many could get it off him - he had it all if I’m being honest.

“If there is one thing he needs to improve, I would say maybe score more goals because he has certainly got that in him.

“If Spurs are getting him for the money they say they are, that is a massive steal because Yves can play in a two midfield and also in three midfield.

“He can tackle, dribble and his passing is quite good too so he has really developed in the last few years, and that is credit to the coaching he’s received from the team at Brighton.”

In four years at Brighton, Bissouma has come close to being thrown out due to disciplinary reason, but he has always been driven, for all the off the field issues once he’s on the pitch he gets the work done.

While he’s been in England, there has not been a transfer window when Brighton have not received a bid for him, and it’s Spurs who finally get to have him for £25million with the potential for add on fees.

His mates say he is hard work but he’s worth it, and he’s now notched up 112 Premier League games, three goals and two assists.

Yves Bissouma of Brighton & Hove Albion in action during the Premier League match (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Arrest and driving bans

One incident which threatened to disrupt any transfer happened in a Brighton seafront nightclub in October 2021.

Sussex Police arrested a Brighton player - Bissouma - on suspicion of sexual assault.

The 25-year-old was released under investigation, and the police are still investigating the incident.

At the time, the club said: “Brighton and Hove Albion are aware that one of its players is assisting police with the investigation of an alleged offence.

“The matter is subject to a legal process and the club is therefore unable to make further comment at this time.”

Bissouma has also been banned and fined for speeding on two occasions, but if there is one man who can get the chaos out and fix his head on football, it’s Antonio Conte.

The Italian is a born winner, who has gotten the best out of hot-head players like Diego Costa and Romelu Lukaku, and the union between Conte and Bissouma looks like a match made in heaven.