Aurelien Tchouameni emerged from the Real Madrid team bus as he usually does, walking calmly while listening to music through huge wireless headphones.

In Madrid’s first pre-season test against AC Milan, he came off at half-time. Against Manchester United, he played the first 45 minutes again, and he was impressive.

He had 37 touches, was successful with 29 of his 30 passes (97 per cent completed), won the two duels he was involved in and made two interceptions and a tackle. With Casemiro his opposite number (the Madrid legend he was supposed to replace), Tchouameni was almost impeccable, his performance another great reminder of the quality and potential he holds.

These two friendly games have provided two signs at what is a key time for the France midfielder — because his first season at Madrid left something of a bittersweet taste.

Tchouaméni starts against United.@TheAthleticFC

— Mario Cortegana (@MarioCortegana) July 26, 2023

Tchouameni joined Madrid for €80million (£69m; $89.1m), plus €20m in variables, from Monaco last summer, but as the 2022-23 campaign progressed, his first-team appearances dropped. He ended the season as Madrid’s 13th-most used player, with 2,691 minutes, but after the World Cup he started only 50 per cent of the matches he was available for (compared to 85 per cent before the tournament in Qatar).

One explanation was provided to The Athletic earlier this week by Los Angeles-based personal trainer Fabrice Gautier, who Tchouameni has been working with since 2019: “I am not trying to look for excuses because I know none of the top athletes do, but it’s always hard to change from one club to another,” he said.

“No matter the sport, no matter the player; there is still an adaptation time.

“You could tell me that he thrived before World Cup, which he did, but I think a lot of people underestimate the psychological and emotional impact of first playing a World Cup in December, but more importantly, losing a World Cup final in such a dramatic way and then going back to your club right after.

“I believe it was underestimated, and I also believe not too many French players thrived last season because of that,” concluded Gautier, who also works with Barcelona defender Jules Kounde.

Tchouameni, who usually spends his summers in Los Angeles, was at Gautier’s Beverly Hills clinic earlier this month. Gautier knows the midfielder like few others and describes his physical make-up as “a mix between a sprinter and marathon runner”. He adds: “He is very explosive and powerful, mixed with that cardio that makes you think he has a third lung.”

Tchouameni flies into a challenge with United’s Alejandro Garnacho (Photo: David Buono/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has no doubts at all about Tchouameni and shares that view of how much the World Cup weighed on the player both physically — he started all seven of France’s games, playing 621 minutes — and mentally. In fact, the coaching staff believes that the psychological aspect had a greater impact on his drop in performance.

Ancelotti and his team highlighted early this week in private how Tchouameni, 23, has returned from the summer and pointed out that he has an amazing projection, somewhat held back by the great level of Toni Kroos, who is 10 years older.

The plan is for Tchouameni to be an important player for Madrid this season, and there is a feeling that, as the coaches continue to experiment with tactics (such as the diamond in midfield), his qualities could come even further to the fore, especially in a new system that sees the team apply more pressure in the opposition half.

✅ @realmadriden 2-0 @ManUtd
🇺🇸 #RealMadridOnTour

— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) July 27, 2023

Another idea being worked on is for Tchouameni to be the sole pivot in defensive midfield when Madrid do not have the ball, but for two players to take up that position when they are in possession. In the first half against Milan, he and Kross were in a close partnership. It is appreciated that this takes some responsibility away from Tchouameni, and it is believed this will help him.

These experiments by Ancelotti, and the great confidence the coach has conveyed internally, suggest that, despite receiving enquiries from foreign clubs and rumours in the press, Madrid are not considering any exit for Tchouameni.

Instead, he is expected to take a step forward in the forthcoming campaign, despite the fact that the competition for places will be even greater. Jude Bellingham has arrived, Kroos, Luka Modric, Dani Ceballos have renewed their contracts, while Eduardo Camavinga and Federico Valverde continue to show their quality (the latter is expected to move back a few metres in his midfield position).

– How would you describe your goal… in Spanish?

– @BellinghamJude 👇🏿@TheAthleticFC

— Mario Cortegana (@MarioCortegana) July 27, 2023

Gautier has no doubts: “My personal feeling is that Aurelien has always been very mature and that last season helped him, in a way, to reach an even higher level of maturity or mental strength.”

After everything we have seen, including Wednesday night’s reminder, few will disagree.

(Photo: Antonio Villalba/Real Madrid via Getty Images)