TIEMOUE BAKAYOKO is easy to pick out in a crowd — with his shock of hair the colour of dirty snow.
But Chelsea’s £40million midfielder is happy making everybody else look good on the football pitch.
This young and flamboyant Frenchman takes inspiration from Blues legend Claude Makelele.
The former France midfielder has been teaching Bakayoko, 23, to switch off his natural fiery temperament and grow up in an industry that demands maturity — on the pitch at least.
Bakayoko drove a flashy pink Porsche and saw red when substituted barely half an hour into his debut for former club Monaco as life on the French Riviera went to his head.
Colour plays a huge part in his life but now, knuckling down with Chelsea under hardline boss Antonio Conte, everything is more black and white.
Bakayoko knows that to fulfil his potential it is time to work harder than ever in every sense.
Conte is squeezing the best out of Bakayoko physically while the player himself trains his brain like never before — and listens to every nugget of advice from mentor Makelele.
It’s appropriate then that for our interview Bakayoko is bolt upright in a metal-framed, tan leather chair in the darkened room of Chelsea TV’s studio at their Surrey training ground.
He looks like a contestant on Mastermind about to be grilled on his specialist subject.
Bakayoko said: “I’m a pretty straightforward guy but there are certain things I’ll experiment with to bring a bit more colour into my life.
“In Monaco, I drove cars of different colours, had my hair in different colours — but here I’m doing it a bit less. I’ve grown up now. I’m more mature. But I still like a splash of colour in my life.
“Claude arrived at Monaco and spent six months at the club, and sought me out immediately. He told me he believed me, counted on me, told me what I had to work on. Showed what areas I had to work on and improve so I could offer more.
“I knew the big player he’d been, such a glittering career as one of the best midfielders in the world, so I knew it was important to take on board what he said, and to listen to everything he told me.
“Over time I felt I did improve as a player and gained in confidence, and a lot of that was down to Claude. Today, even now, he helps me now that I am here in England.
“Claude is still someone who helps me a lot. He is someone I speak with and he brings so much experience in the advice he gives me.
“What‘s more, being at Chelsea — a club where he played — it means it’s only natural I’m going to listen to every single word he tells me.
“I know that it is through listening to someone like that I’ll progress and improve as a player so that I succeed here.”
Makelele’s game was all about showcasing the attacking threat of Didier Drogba, Arjen Robben and Joe Cole at Chelsea.
He stayed five years from 2003, holding his own until he was 35 and is still revered at Stamford Bridge.
Now assistant manager at Swansea, it will be an interesting reunion when the two teams meet this season.
Cesc Fabregas wears the No 4 shirt Makelele had throughout his spell at the Bridge but Bakayoko explained the personal reasons he has for choosing No 14.
The midfielder grew up near Montparnasse in Paris’ 14th Arrondissement.
He said: “It is a difficult district but being Parisian is a badge of honour for me. I’m proud to be from there. Wearing that No 14 means all my neighbourhood is still with me, all those people are with me.
“It’s a pressure I take on but I feel it’s important to show on the pitch where I come from. The values of work, persistence and taking pleasure, they all come from growing up there. There are people from that area who continue to track what I am doing.”
That ethic is key to Bakayoko’s on-pitch approach. He added: “We all have to push the boundaries of what we can achieve. Claude is an example — someone to aspire to. To have the chance to follow in his footsteps is a real motivation.
“I hope to stay a long time at Chelsea because it’s a great club. And to emulate not only what Claude Makelele did but what other great players did, like Drogba.
“I’m a different player now to at Monaco. I wasn’t happy with being substituted that day. But I was different back then. Younger.
“When you arrive at a club like Monaco and on your debut the coach subs you after 32 minutes it hurts. You lose confidence.
“I still don’t agree with what the manager did but he’s the coach so he decides. It wasn’t easy but those are the challenges which help you.
“They’re the reasons that today I’m a player who knows how to act in all situations. These things are sent to test you.”
The mental challenge is matched at Chelsea but the physical demands are even bigger.
Blues boss Conte, like Makelele, is a modest man but passionate and quietly ruthless.
Bakayoko said: “Conte has that reputation and he’s an incredibly demanding coach. Sometimes I get the feeling I have to make even more effort in training than I do in a match.
“That’s the level of intensity he demands every day in what we do, all the players but he’s one of the best coaches in the world.
“We all know how hard it is to win the Premier League, and yet he won it in his first season as a foreign coach.
“It’s not like winning a cup. If you win the league, it’s not a fluke. So that shows the hard work pays off. His methods work. I’m here to win trophies and, with him as my coach, I know I can achieve that here.”
TO mark this week’s International Day of the Girl, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Chelsea FC are supporting global charity partner Plan International’s efforts to break barriers facing girls worldwide.