There are many reasons why a player can impress, even without knowing anything about him. It could be his talent, probably the easiest quality to spot on a football field. It could be his personality or determination, a crucial feature for a footballer especially at high levels. None of those are the reason why I fell in love with Miangue at first sight. At the time, I knew very few things about him and I never saw him play, but when I followed him on Instagram and scrolled down his profile, I immediately knew he he had something. I didn't know what it was, but he definitely had it. It may sound stupid -- and it probably is -- but in 2016 technology, and social media specifically, are an integral part of every person’s life, almost becoming someone’s involuntary business card.
You want to know what are the things that made me like him right away? Well...I don’t really know. Maybe I liked him because of his constantly smiling/impossible to dislike face. Maybe because of his dressing style, usually casual and modern but very classy and elegant when necessary, always on point. Maybe because of the many photos where he is portrayed training or playing for Inter, often accompanied by the #forzainter and #godisgood hashtags. Maybe because some things don't need to have a real reason and just happen naturally.
Miangue, whose name is a tribute to the legendary F1 racer Ayrton, hasn’t always been predestined to have a successful football career. In fact, it wasn’t even his favorite sport as a kid. He grew up playing basketball with his friends but his step-father, who surely is better than some of the so-called scouts Inter had in the past few years, saw potential in Senna and made him try out for a local youth team. A few years later, Casiraghi and Maneghetti noticed him when he was playing for the U15 Belgian National team and in 2013 they decided he was good enough for Inter and took him to Milan when he was just 16 years old, beating competition from Arsenal and other top European clubs.
There is a good reason why Miangue’s favorite sport back when he was younger was basketball. He is very tall (1.92 m, 6 ft 3 in) and extremely agile given his frame. He can play as centre-back or as full-back, with the latter being the most suitable role for his qualities. Despite his height, he is extremely fast, so fast that he always is one of the top three fastest players when he is on the pitch: he is able to reach more than 32 km/h on a football field. Not bad at all. Miangue wears the number 95 on his shirt not the 97 (his year of birth) and he dreams to don the number 12 one day, the same number Ayrton Senna used when racing.
Senna got a little taste of pro football this summer during the International Champions Cup. Mancini already saw potential in him and wanted to have the young Belgian with the first squad during the trip in the United States, even though he only played 18 minutes in the competition. Then manager changed and Mancini’s replacement trusted him even more than the Italian did. Miangue made his official debut as a Nerazzurro against Palermo on August 28, coming off the bench in the 69th minute. Then he played 11 minutes in the exciting win against Juventus, helping the team defend the result at the end of the match with a few key runs to shut down Paulo Dybala.
One week later, against Bologna, he was Inter’s starting left full-back. At 19 years old. You would expect a little bit of anxiety and shyness from such a young guy at his first appearance from the very first minute. Oh, how wrong would you be. He played like a seasoned veteran in the body of a young, athletic buck who had no fear of pushing as hard as he could while also keeping focus throughout the whole game. He was great and De Boer clearly thought the same since he kept him on the field until the final whistle. In this match, he proved to already have great chemistry with Ivan Perisic. They have similar bodies and skills, so it will be very exciting to see how this duo develops their relationship on the pitch as the season progresses.
Miangue is still at the roots of a learning process that will take him from being a young, promising prospect to being an accomplished star. That road is long though. There will be bumps and off days, and a lot of time the media will try to take him down and undervalue him just for the pleasure of doing it. The raw materials are all there though and De Boer will have the hard but rewarding task of knowing when and how to mold that huge potential into the best footballer he can be.