If Ismaël Koné had forgotten that at 20 he is the most haloed Quebec soccer player, a short trip to his hometown refreshed his memory.

First, on May 27, he was at Saputo Stadium to see his former club, CF Montreal, take the measure of Inter Miami. The supporters spoiled themselves. Photos, autographs and generous dialogue during half-time and after the match were on the menu for the midfielder.

Then, on June 4, he continued his tour with a stop at Verdun Auditorium. During a Montreal Alliance game, he indulged in the refrain. He took a crowd bath again and certainly made the evening of several fans of football, soccer or basketball.

It is also along the lines of the Montreal prosecutor’s office that he allocated a few minutes to La Presse for an impromptu interview. It should be noted that he first took care to meet each supporter who requested him before lending himself to the exercise.

“Here is always my home. It’s my city. It’s nice to come home and see so much love and support. If I can please people the way they do when they come to support me, it’s even more pleasant for me, “he said with a smile, and especially with his usual calm.

The last 12 months have passed quickly for the native of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. He established himself as an important cog in CF Montreal, particularly on the home stretch of the campaign, and racked up over a hundred World Cup minutes. What’s more, he subsequently left the Montreal club for the English second division with Watford, where he appeared in 16 of the 20 league games for the former club of Elton John after his arrival.

If he wanted to highlight the efforts of the Hornets, which greatly facilitated the transition by taking care of all the administrative aspects, he also insisted on the contributions of the work of Wilfried Nancy in his quest.

Exactly. Why does he fit well? What progressed in his game? The principal concerned believes he knows why.

“I think I trust myself more now,” he explained. I realize the player I am today. I know myself better and I take more risks and often it works. As a player, you have to test yourself, see where your limits are. I believe that is the difference. »

Koné’s surge in performance also crystallized in the national team. Yes, he took part in all three games at the Worlds, but it was after that that was interesting for him on a personal level. With the inevitable retirement of captain of the maple leaf Atiba Hutchinson, the Quebecer has a shot at the midfield position.

The Canadian coach saw it well. John Herdman has placed Koné at the center of the new cycle of the Canadian team in view of the 2026 World Cup, which will be partially presented in Canada. The driver also established Koné in both games after the World Cup.

During the press briefing after a game against Honduras, the England coach praised the former CF Montreal player’s play.

That’s saying something.

However, before thinking about what he could become or the next World Cup, Koné sees himself going one year at a time. It’s a fitting time as with the CONCACAF Nations League semi-finals to be held later in June and the Gold Cup approaching, he should be busy this summer.

“At the moment, I am someone who does not see too far. I take it one year at a time, especially since I feel like I’m getting better every year. […] I am not someone who thinks that in 2026, he is sure to be on the starting lineup, I am calm. I tell myself that in 2026, the coach will make his choices and we will have to respect them. »

Before even finishing the question, Koné hastened to answer that he watched several matches of the 2023 edition of the Bleu-blanc-noir. Not just the one he attended in person. Naturally, he noted the difference in strategy between the game offered by former pilot Wilfried Nancy, whom he rubbed shoulders with, and Hernán Losada, in office since the end of December 2022. “Everyone has their philosophy and you have to respect it. I’m happy because they were able to get wins and when I passed they won too,” he dropped with a smile.

One player who will be alongside Koné for the next few years is midfielder Stephen Eustáquio. The Quebecer couldn’t be happier than to have the FC Porto player – the team’s metronome – as a colleague. “To play with this kind of player with this quality [like Stephen], it allows me to learn so much every time. Just watching it and listening to it, I learn a lot. As much on the tactical level, mentally as on my offensive and defensive game”, he underlined.