Lyon are renowned for their ability to produce and nurture young talents and turn them into superstars. Their academy is famed for bringing through talents such as Karim Benzema, Rayan Cherki, Malo Gusto, Nabil Fekir and Houssem Aouar.
Young centre-back Castello Lukeba’s rise from the academy to first-team regular in the 2021/22 season was a prime example. At just 19, Lukeba has been one of the most eye-catching talents to break through in Ligue 1. Lyon have had some great defenders over the years and the Lyon-born centre-back could be the latest to join that group. The 19-year-old made the step up to the first team after long-term injuries forced manager Peter Bosz to turn to the youth setup.
Despite an uncertain start to his Lyon career, the centre-back appears to have gone away and worked hard at his game during a lengthy spell out of the first-team. It’s paid off with the Frenchman now one of the first names on the team sheet. The young defender has taken his opportunity and put in good performances and was nominated for the 2021/22 Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year award. Lukeba has become a key part of Lyon’s defence possessing individual qualities that make him a terrific ball-playing defender.
How good is Castello Lukeba?
One thing every young player needs is confidence, and Lukeba has it in abundance. Since his break from the senior side, he’s acquired a calmness and bravery which sees him rarely shy away from a battle. He carries an air of effortlessness, rare in such a young player.
Castello Lukeba vs West Ham@Savimbi_king 19 years old
— Matolisso (@Matolisso) April 7, 2022
At 19 years old Lukeba is already a well-rounded player. He is very comfortable on the ball and able to make progressive passes which advances Lyon into their attacking phase of play. He is adept when carrying the ball which is a key aspect of the modern centre back while of course continuing a high defensive ability.
Lukeba can improve aerially and all-around in terms of physicality, with strength, size and jumping height standing out as particularly weak areas of his game right now. However, it must be stressed that this isn’t at all unusual for a 19-year-old and there’s still plenty of time to grow, though he must do that now to really round himself out.
Castello Lukeba has the world at his feet, at 19 years old he is proving to be one of the best central defenders in Ligue 1. He is a very promising young player with great technical abilities. He displays great composure and awareness when on the ball and is willing and able to make progressive passes and astute observations which benefit his team in attack.
Castello Lukeba stats
A main requirement for a modern centre-back is to progress play from the back. This is the most eye-catching part of Lukeba’s game. Boasting an impressive 75 passes a game with an accuracy of 92.4%, Lyon have one of the most promising ball-playing centre-backs in Europe at their disposal.
Centre-backs can often be criticised for playing the easy pass but Lukeba is different. As Bosz likes to play on the front foot, Lukeba’s style of play makes him an obvious choice. Progressive passing is a virtue for front-footed teams and Lukeba boasted five progressive passes per 90 minutes last season which are high numbers for a centre-back.
He is very happy to operate in the half spaces and can be considered a proactive defender as he makes 5.15 interceptions per 90 which demonstrates his ability to read the game and thwart opposition attacks. He is a much more aggressive defender than his fellow Lyon centre backs. For the most part this is very effective as he had won 71.9% of his defensive duels last season and had been successful in 57% of his tackles.
Lukeba averages 4.66 passes to the final third per game, this is a clear indication of how he fits the mould of the modern ball-playing centre-back.
19-year-old Lyon centre-back Castello Lukeba is one to keep an eye on 👀pic.twitter.com/MaLHGDlayA
— Birdiefootball (@birdiefootball) May 6, 2022
Castello Lukeba scout report
From a defensive perspective, there’s still some naivety in Lukeba’s game which is understandable for someone so young. Positionally, however, he’s usually in the right place at the right time and even when he isn’t, he’s able to rely upon his incredible recovery pace.
His ability to recover shows there’s resolute steel to his game, providing security to the rest of his teammates. Lukeba’s left-footedness is an incredibly desirable asset for a modern centre-back, as more is asked of defenders in playing with the ball at their feet, and creates an interesting platform for OL to build attacks. He rarely goes to ground, preferring to use his physical presence and intelligence to ensure he is in the right place at the right time.
Lukeba possesses a good amount of pace and is able to remain calm and composed which means he is able to defend 1v1 situations very well. This also means he can act as a sweeper when required which provides great defensive stability for Lyon, knowing that Lukeba can be relied upon to cover the defensive line.
He doesn’t rush into things and doesn’t sell himself too easily, rather he remains calm and trusts in his physical and technical ability to control the situation and prevent the attack from developing to a critical stage. When the time comes to act more aggressively, Lukeba’s prior actions ensure he’s in the best position to be aggressive and successfully end the opposition’s attack, despite the high level of danger associated with an attack.
Lightning recovery pace, on-point positioning, efficient and progressive passing plus bags of confidence mean Castello Lukeba has all the makings of a top-level centre-back. If he can continue his current trajectory, the sky is the limit for Lyon’s wonderkid number 4.
Castello Lukeba transfer news
Lukeba’s rapid rise to prominence has put multiple clubs on alert, with Chelsea, Manchester United and Real Madrid closely monitoring his progress. The French defender has also learned a lot after building a formidable defensive partnership alongside the experienced Jerome Boateng.
Lukeba has made a solid impression with his defensive work ethic that has already led to comparisons with Samuel Umtiti. While the 19-year-old is far from a finished product, his swift growth at Lyon has made him one of the most sought-after prospects in French football.
Chelsea, for one, are among the clubs closely monitoring the development of the talented centre-back, who could be considered an excellent long-term option for Graham Potter. The Blues already spent nearly 180m euros in the summer on their defence, but with Thiago Silva not getting any younger, Lukeba might be the perfect solution.
Real Madrid are another club keen on securing the services of Castello Lukeba, who could prove to be an ideal prospect in a defensive unit that has appeared overly reliant on the duo of Eder Militao and David Alaba.
However, according to Lyon’s president, Lukeba is unlikely to move away from Lyon anytime soon. The club’s president is increasingly keen on keeping hold of the defensive asset and will not entertain any offers. However, that should not deter interested parties from making attempts to sign him, knowing the Frenchman has the potential to become a top-class defender in Europe.
Castello Lukeba is one to watch and will undoubtedly go on to achieve great things. After Karim Benzema, Nabil Fekir, Alexandre Lacazette and many more, he is the latest wonderkid to graduate from the Les Gones academy.