The 22-year-old has since moved on to the Bundesliga, but says that the world’s best defender remains in France.
“Even if we ask defenders to score goals, to be decisive more and more, the most important thing is to defend well. And for me, the one who defends best is Thiago Silva,” he told Goal. “In one against one, defensively, he is monstrous.”
He would not, however, say that he models his game on the Brazilian, but studies all of football's top players.
"I am a football lover - I watch a lot of football on TV,” he admitted. “But I will not replay moments to see how he does things. I save the replays for my own matches.
“I watch the games as a spectator even though I have a closer look at the top players. Whether it’s Thiago Silva in France, the defenders of Juventus in Italy, Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool or Cesar Azpilicueta at Chelsea, I look at all the players, I am inspired by everything, but I focus on myself first.”
He believes moving to Germany has been a positive step for him, while he says that young French players have a terrific reputation in the Bundesliga.
“They consider the French young players as diamonds,” he said. “Whenever a Frenchman arrives, there is very little chance that he will be a flop. That's what people here told me, and I think the World Cup win accentuated that.
“And if you look closely, there are many young players in the France squad: Ousmane Dembele, Kylian Mbappe, Florian Thauvin, Samuel Umtiti, Paul Pogba – for the most part, they still played with the youth teams not so long ago.”
He arrived as a replacement for Abdou Diallo, another young Frenchman, who moved to Borussia Dortmund in the summer, although Niakhate did not discuss his transfer in depth with his former France youth team colleague.
“We only spoke after I signed my deal,” he said. “I wanted to make the decision for myself.
“He said that the stadiums are incredible, that there are shows everywhere and that people live for football. I knew it already, but it confirmed what I thought.
“He also told me about the club. He explained to me the rules of life. He told me that people were very reliable there. All we said was more like advice from friends. He gave me some tips. We talked about our life. But we did not go further on Mainz.”
Niakhate has been an ever present in a defence that has not conceded more than a single goal in a game so far this season.