Bradley Locko has been pulling up trees in Ligue 1 this season. 

The young fullback is a regular feature for Stade Brestois (Brest) who are defying all expectations, currently sitting in 2nd place and chasing a Champions League spot.

It’s been over a decade since Brest finished in the top 2 in France, and in their last four campaigns, the side has failed to finish outside of the bottom half. A massive accomplishment.

And Bradley Locko an integral part of it.

Locko has been a standout performer for the French outfit, since making his initial loan move permanent for a fee of around €500.000 from Stade de Reims.

Standing at 5ft 11, the robust fullback is extremely versatile, allowing Brest to invert him into midfield, or use him as a width option in attack.

Instantly noticeable is Locko’s outstanding athleticism. Similar in physical profile to Aaron Wan-Bissaka who was nicknamed “The Spider” due to his tackling ability, particularly his lunging last-ditch slide tackles.

Locko, despite being slightly shorter than Wan-Bissaka, has this same trait with lunging tackles. His ability to stop attackers in their path with the simple outstretch of a leg is formidable, and this combined with his raw athleticism, pace and power makes him a nightmare to go up against 1v1.

Stats courtesy of Fbref. Comparison between fullbacks in “big 5” European leagues.

Standing at 5’11, Locko doesn’t have that particular genetic aerial advantage, but does leverage his athleticism to great effect in aerial duels. With strong jumping reach, he’s able to contest the long ball, and routinely come away the victor. 

But Bradley isn’t just a locko-down defender (that was too easy), in fact, he has a brilliant set of tools that makes him something of a swiss army knife in possession.

His ball carrying is particularly special, acceleration on the ball, and the usage of his frame is excellent. Locko puts his body between the ball and player as well as any fullback, before using his power to burst away from danger with his long stride.

This means he can drive forward with great effect. Often dragging the ball out of defence himself rather than looking for a teammate to do the heavy lifting. Using that long stride of his, Locko can reach for the ball effectively, knock it ahead of his path and power through oncoming challenges – or win his side a free-kick when he’s inevitably dragged down to prevent the break.

Stats courtesy of Fbref. Comparison between fullbacks in “big 5” European leagues.

Aside from being a threat at the byline, Locko has also easily adopted the latest trend in the fullback position. If a path outside is obstructed, he can chop the ball inside and drive centrally. Compared with fullbacks in top 5 European leagues, Locko ranks in the top 4 percentile when it comes to successful take-ons, and in the top 20% for progressive carries per 90 minutes.

Not only can Locko drive the ball dangerously and with purpose, but his passing range and ability make him a dual threat. At Brest, Locko is clearly given the freedom to progress the ball in the manner he sees fit, and is more than capable of playing long speculative passes to bypass the midfield if needs be.

This extensive range of passing allows him to switch the play during build-up, make progress off the ball while the play evolves on the opposite side, and then contribute in the middle and final third with line-breaking passes or crosses into the penalty area when the ball returns to his area of influence.

As with any young player, there are areas for Locko to improve upon. Notably, even the least attentive opponents will notice that the youngster is reluctant to use his right foot. And unless you’re the next iteration of Ashley Cole, you need to be able to trust your weak foot in the modern game. Both to add unpredictability to your game, and give yourself a dependable “out” in emergency situations.

That Ashley Cole reference wasn’t out of the blue (another one!). Bradley Locko has indeed attracted significant interest from a variety of European clubs, but most notably Mauricio Pochettino’s Chelsea.

Chelsea have been eyeing up a left back for quite some time now, given the injury record of Ben Chilwell, and the inconsistent form of Marc Cucurella.

Adding Locko to the mix would enable the Blues to be more flexible in possession, having a fullback that can carry out multiple roles, and also improve their defensive stability due to the youngster’s high level of athleticism and 1v1 defending.

With that athleticism to aid him in duels and defensive responsibilities, immense ball-carrying ability, and exciting passing range, Bradley Locko is looking like a complete fullback option for many top sides, and at only the age of 21, the future is looking very bright.