Marcus Thuram is slowly emerging from his famous father’s shadow, even if an incident last week in Milan suggested Borussia Moenchengladbach’s French forward is not yet a household name everywhere.
The 23-year-old son of 1998 World Cup winner Lilian Thuram is making a name in his own right in the Bundesliga and the Champions League, in which Gladbach host Real Madrid on Tuesday.
Lilian Thuram is France’s most-capped player, best remembered on the field for his double against Croatia in the 1998 World Cup semi-final as Les Bleus went on to win the trophy on home soil.
Marcus therefore has a long way to go to match the achievements of his father, and is clearly not yet as famous as his old man.
The day before Gladbach’s 2-2 Champions League draw at Inter Milan, a San Siro steward reportedly refused to let Thuram into a press conference where he was due to address media.
Wearing a face mask due to the coronavirus pandemic, Thuram had to prove his identity by using Google on his smartphone to convince the suspicious staff member.
The next day the forward, who played for Sochaux and Guingamp before going to Germany last year, made sure Inter fans knew who he was as he won a second-half penalty which was converted by Ramy Bensebaini.
Unlike the Milan steward, former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has certainly heard of the France Under-21 international, who reminds him of a certain Thierry Henry.
“Technically, he (Henry) could do everything, however there is one player in the Bundesliga who reminds me of him — Marcus Thuram at Borussia Moenchengladbach,” Wenger told magazine Spiegel.
– Race protests –
There are certainly few excuses for not recognising Thuram.
In May, pictures of him were beamed around the world after he became the first footballer in Germany to take a knee in protest following the death of the 46-year-old African American George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.
Taking Thuram’s lead, players at Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund later also took a knee as part of the “Black Lives Matter” protests.
“Of course, as a young black player, the issue concerns me,” Thuram told AFP in an interview last December, well before the wave of protests last summer sparked by the killing of Floyd.
His father runs the Lilian Thuram Foundation which aims to educate young people about racism and why it is wrong.
The young Thuram added: “We have to fight.”
On the field he has so far scored 15 goals and created 13 more in 46 games for Gladbach since arriving in July last year following Guingamp’s relegation from Ligue 1.
He is versatile, having played half of his Gladbach games as a centre forward, the rest mostly on the left wing with the occasional cameo on the right.
Gladbach coach Marco Rose knows Thuram “would like to become a complete striker”, but for now the Frenchman gives his club lots of options.
Thuram’s pace has seen him win penalties in his last four games.
His mazy runs worry defenders, forcing opponents to make mistakes in the area in Gladbach’s matches against Cologne, Wolfsburg, Inter and then Mainz on Saturday, when team-mate Jonas Hofmann converted a spot-kick in a 3-2 fightback win.
With his side 2-1 down, Rose brought on Thuram and another trusted French forward in Alassane Plea to provide the necessary impetus.
Thuram forced Mainz to give away a penalty for handball, Hofmann equalised and then Matthias Ginter scored the winner.
That win gave Gladbach a timely confidence boost before facing Real, who beat Barcelona 3-1 in Saturday’s Clasico after crashing to a shock 3-2 defeat at home to a depleted Shakhtar Donetsk side last Wednesday.
Thuram and Plea are likely to start against Real having forged a partnership which yielded 24 goals between them last season.