My Five: Ligue 1 Youngsters at AFCON 2013
WORDS: MATTHEW RICHARDS
Ligue 1 has long been known for unearthing some of the best emerging African players in the game. With the Africa Cup of Nations 2013 set to kick off this Saturday, we asked French football expert, Matthew Richards, to identify five young talents to look out for at the tournament in South Africa…
It hasn’t been an easy year or so for the Moroccan national side. This time last year, the Lions of the Atlas found themselves packing their bags with high hopes of success in the 2012 championships. Three games later and they were once again packing those bags – this time with the distinct feeling of disappointment, as losses to Gabon and Tunisia, before a consolatory win over lowly Niger, saw them eliminated at the group stages. It was a painful reality check and one the side hope to show they have learned from this time around.
When Rachid Taoussi’s 24-man squad was announced, the headline news was the exclusion of big-name players Adel Taraabt and Marouane Chamakh, but one man that could well make the most of that news is Montpellier’s Younès Belhanda.
Despite his young age, Belhanda is already considered a big part of the national setup. His creativity and vision have impressed on many occasion for both club and country and, now, without the looming presence of Taraabt, Belhanda may actually give his best performances in a national shirt.
Though his talent is in no doubt, his fiery nature has been known to spill over into ill discipline, something he has displayed on occasion in the last two seasons for his club. However, with more responsibility – deliberately or not – thrust upon him, now is the time for Belhanda to let his talent do the talking. If that proves to be the case, Morocco may yet expel the shame of last year in the best way possible by walking away with the trophy.
RYAN MENDES DA GRAÇA
Cape Verde is not a nation that springs to mind when discussing upcoming major football tournaments. With that said, this archipelago of 10 islands off the western coast of Africa is set to win your unquestioned affection in the next few weeks.
Struggling to cope with the costs of merely getting the team to South Africa, the Cape Verde FA have recently held fundraising events under the banner ‘Operacao CAN 2013′, including a concert in the country’s capital, Praia, as well as releasing commemorative postal stamps, to help bolster the budget of the national football team ahead of their Africa Cup of Nations bow.
Still, Cape Verde are no charity chase on the pitch and are at the tournament on merit. The minnows qualified at the expense of African footballing giants Cameroon, sealing an aggregate win of 3-2. While The Blue Sharks may not boast big names like some of the other nations, there is still some talent within their ranks, one individual being Ryan Mendes, of Lille.
The pacy, direct winger signed for the Nord club earlier this season and has since been edging his way into the starting XI. Having scored a handful of goals already, the former Le Havre man is certainly raising eyebrows in France and keeping the likes of Salomon Kalou and Marvin Martin on their toes. Though Mendes has been impressive so far this season, it is still a tall order to expect him to guide his nation through a group consisting of hosts South Africa, Morocco and Angola.
Cape Verde are undeniably a charming addition to this year’s tournament but they should by no means be patronised. Whatever the outcome for the islanders, Mendes and co will almost certainly make the fundraising efforts to get the team to South Africa worthwhile.
Burkina Faso’s preparation for the tournament has been far from ideal. Coach Paul Put was forced to change the planned schedule of travel as several clubs held their players back until two weeks before their first game.
If the disruption to travelling arrangements was an inconvenience, then the question marks over key player Alain Traoré’s fitness have been cause for serious concern. The Lorient man twisted his ankle during his last Ligue 1 game before the competition several weeks ago but Traoré’s inclusion in the squad has been confirmed after a good recovery period. However, the former Auxerre player must be in top form if The Stallions are to fulfil their undoubted potential and progress from a group consisting of current holders Zambia, Nigeria and Ethiopia.
The gangly forward has been in fine form in Ligue 1 this season, chipping in with six goals, some of which have been simply dazzling in execution. Traoré certainly has an eye for the spectacular and his rocket of a left foot could well produce some highlight reel material for this year’s tournament. His talent, added to a side including Marseille’s Charles Kaboré, Lyon’s Bakary Koné and Rennes’ Jonathan Pitroïpa could well see Burkina Faso become the entertainers of the tournament but, with the right application and a fully fit Traoré, we may well remember this team for more than just aesthetics.
A year on from the disappointment of not qualifying for the 2012 championships, Algeria find themselves among the favourites for the upcoming tournament. Lead by former Ivory Coast coach, the Bosnian, Vahid Halilhodžic, The Desert Warriors qualified by convincingly defeating Gambia and Libya.
The Algerian Football Federation stated recently that a semi-final place is the minimum objective, but have also cast an eye to qualification for the World Cup in 2014, hoping that a successful Africa Cup of Nations campaign will set them on the right track. Such positivity and ambition has certainly been a novelty for Sochaux’s Ryad Boudebouz. The creative midfield player has seen his club side slip down to 18th in the league and witnessed his own form falter.
With the departure of Marvin Martin to Lille in the summer, eyes turned to Boudebouz, who was seen as the obvious heir to Martin’s throne. Unfortunately such high performances have failed to materialise and Boudebouz looks like a man in need of a confidence boost. Time away with his country could well be just what the doctor ordered, then. He is still very obviously a player of quality, who can influence a game considerably. If 10 other players are performing around him to the high standards expected of Algeria, this tournament may well bring out the best in Boudebouz. That can only be a positive thing for the viewing public.
Having played for both Tunisia and France at youth level, Bastia forward Wahbi Khazri has finally pledged his allegiance to Tunisia, despite being born in Corsica. The player featured twice for France in their unsuccessful European Under-21 Championships 2013 qualifying campaign but, despite his appearances for Les Bleus, Khazri will be wearing the white of The Eagles for the first time on a competitive senior level in South Africa.
The 21 year-old has more than earned his call-up, though, having impressed so far in Ligue 1 this season. Bastia’s No10 boasts five assists and three goals in 17 appearances, having helped his side into 13th place at the winter break.
In South Africa, however, Khazri and Tunisia face a tough task. Picked alongside favourites Ivory Coast, as well as a talented Algeria side and Togo, the North African side face stiff competition just to progress from the group stage. For Khazri the following weeks will be a good indication of whether a change of colours was the right decision.
Matthew Richards is an English Ligue 1 blogger. You can follow him on Twitter @MatthewAnthony9 and visit his blog at lepetitcarremagique.wordpress.com
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My Five: Serie A Fratelli
WORDS: EMANUELE GIULIANELLI
The Italian national anthem is also known as “Fratelli d’Italia”, or Brothers of Italy, and Serie A has seen its fair share of talented siblings down the years. For this calcio fanatic, five favourite fratelli stood out…
In the beginning there was the Sentimenti family. Coming from the province of Modena, in Northern Italy, they were five brothers who played at a high level, between the Thirties and the Sixties, covering more than 30 years of football.
The five brothers were indicated by a Roman numeral to differentiate between them and four of the brothers reached Serie A with their respective teams, producing even some internecine clashes, like the match Juventus and Modena played in Turin in 1947/48. In the 81st minute, the referee awarded a penalty for Modena: Sentimenti V stepped up to beat Sentimenti IV in the Juventus goal.
Many brothers have played in Serie A since the days of the Sentimenti family, but here I have selected my five, who plied their trade from the Eighties onwards. I hope you’ll enjoy my choices…
GIACOMO FERRI I (Torino, Lecce)
RICCARDO FERRI II (Inter)
Two brothers, two defenders – stoppers, both of them. There was a very simple rule for the stopper in calcio of old: you had to be able to stop the opposite forward in any way deemed more-or-less fair. The stopper could represent the difference between conceding a goal and saving a match. For this reason it was a very risky job! You could provoke a penalty, or leave your team without a man for a last-man foul.
Or, indeed, you could end up scoring an own goal.
Riccardo Ferri has gone down in history as the man who beat the all-time record for own goals scored in Serie A, scoring eight in his own net to go better than the legendary Comunardo Niccolai, from the Cagliari of the Seventies.
But Riccardo was also a great defender: fast and clear in closing down and marking. He was part of the glorious Inter side, managed by Giovanni Trapattoni, which broke all the records in the 1988-89 Serie A season, and he was a pillar of the Italian national team that won bronze in the Italia ’90 World up.
His elder brother, Giacomo, didn’t play a match for the Azzurri, but he had a good career too, mainly with Torino and Lecce. He was a rougher, less talented, player than his brother, but he has remained in Torino’s fans hearts for his never-say-die attitude and his commitment to the Granata shirt.
FABIO CANNAVARO I (Napoli, Parma, Inter, Juventus)
PAOLO CANNAVARO II (Napoli, Verona, Parma)
There is a nice story about the Cannavaro brothers, who played from the Nineties until this day (Paolo is still playing for Napoli, while Fabio retired in 2011 after his last experience in United Arab Emirates). Both defenders, like the Ferri brothers, they started playing in Napoli, but when Fabio was already in the first team, Paolo was still growing up in the youth team. By the time Paolo made his debut in Serie B, Fabio was playing in Parma.
May 14, 2000: Parma are playing at the Tardini stadium against Lecce in the last game of the season and the score is 3-1 to the home team. Then, on 82 minutes, Mister Malesani decided to make a substitution: Fabio Cannavaro, the leader of the defence alongside Liliam Thuram, was to come out. In his place would, a young defender from Napoli would come on for his Serie A debut. He was, of course, Paolo Cannavaro.
It was like an imprimatur from the elder brother to the younger: ok, you can play in Serie A, like me. It was a very meaningful scene, that long minute in Parma, when two Neapolitan brothers passed the baton between one another on the pitch.
GIUSEPPE BARESI I (Inter)
FRANCO BARESI II (Milan)
Two brothers. Two sides of the same city. Two legends for their own respective teams. A derby within the family. These were the Baresi and Milan was in their destiny: AC Milan for Franco, Inter for Giuseppe.
When they were kids, they were brought from the little city of Travagliato, near Brescia, to the big city, Milan, for a trial with Internazionale Football Club. Giuseppe was admitted to play for the youth team of the club, while Franco was rejected.
His dream of playing together with his brother was over, and he was disappointed. But he didn’t give up, and decided to attend another trial, this time with the other side in the city: AC Milan. He passed this exam and became a Rossoneri player – one of the most glorious of all time.
It seems like destiny was amusing itself with this trick, as the Baresi brothers became symbols of their respective teams. Franco, the legendary sweeper who led the defence of his great Milan team, raising his hand to call offside or stepping up suddenly to move the line; Beppe, the midfield dynamo of the Inter side that won two Scudetti, the second coming in 1989 after a long and solitary nine-year gap.
LUCA PELLEGRINI I (Sampdoria, Verona, Torino)
DAVIDE PELLEGRINI II (Fiorentina, Verona)
STEFANO PELLEGRINI III (Sampdoria, Roma, Udinese)
Pellegrini were three brothers in A!
Three very different players with three different styles. Luca, the elder one, was a sweeper, who ruled the defence of the most successful Sampdoria side yet, the Blucerchiata team that won Serie A in 1991, a European Cup Winners’ Cup and three Coppa Italia. He always cut a very serious figure, thoughtful and composed.
Davide, the middle brother, had a more rebellious look. Long hair with a fringe, he was a winger, a talented and imaginative right-winger. He played for a number of clubs, but his most important appearance was with another player kissed by the Gods of football, Roberto Baggio, with Fiorentina in the two-year period 1987-1989. Then he became a notable player for Hellas Verona. There he played for two seasons with his big brother Luca, but they were relegated to Serie B.
The third brother, Stefano, had short hair. He was a right-back, who could also play as a right-midfielder. He won two Coppa Italia – the first with Sampdoria, together with Luca, captain and the second, by a twist of fate, he won after beating Sampdoria in the final, with AS Roma. The captain of the Genoese side that day was Luca Pellegrini himself and Stefano actually scored an own goal.
One very special Sunday – November 27, 1988 – Sampdoria and Fiorentina drew 0-0. In the last minute, Amedeo Carboni came off for Sampdoria to be replaced by Stefano Pellegrini. For one long minute, Luca, Stefano and Davide (with Fiorentina) all played in the same match in Serie A.
ANTONIO PAGANIN I (Sampdoria, Udinese, Inter, Atalanta, Verona)
MASSIMO PAGANIN II (Brescia, Inter, Bologna, Atalanta)
The Paganin story is a continental story. Antonio and Massimo, both from Vicenza and both defenders, had different careers, played always with different teams, until the 1993/94 season.
Ambitious Inter president, Massimo Moratti, decided to sign up a 23-year-old central defender from relegated Brescia, where he had made his debut in Serie A the previous year. This young player was Massimo Paganin, who joined in the Nerazzurri side his brother Antonio, a veteran at Inter, with whom he had won Uefa Cup in 1991 against Roma.
So what happened in that 1993/94 campaign to write Antonio and Massimo Paganin into the history books of European football?
“Something that made us very proud. We were the first brothers of all times to win a Uefa Cup together,”
Massimo Paganin once proudly announced, recalling the time Inter won the competition after a two-legged final against Salzburg. To close this piece, I want to quote Massimo Paganin who, when asked what it means to play alongside your brother at the highest level of the game, said: “Even if being someone’s brother can sometimes close some doors to you, it’s fine. It’s something to be proud of”.
You can follow Emanuele on Twitter @EmaGiulianelli and get the latest from the site @theinsidelefty or by joining us on Facebook.
My Five: Palace Youth Products
WORDS: BRYAN DAVIES
Wilfried Zaha’s England call-up has once again turned the spotlight on the thriving academy at Crystal Palace, a youth set-up that has given debuts to 57 graduates since the mid-1990s alone. Under Simon Jordan and now CPFC2010, the academy has been placed at the heart of the club and the local community, while recent years have seen another gear shift in the quality of players produced under Gary Issott’s immaculate stewardship. Here, Bryan Davies takes a look at four of the best academy stars of recent times, and one player who could have been the best of the lot…
A late developer in youth terms, Zaha’s progress since his debut as a spindly kid in oversized kit and boots, bought for him by Dougie Freedman, has been remarkably rapid, and the Abidjan-born forward has matured into the finest player in the Championship.
His gifts are unique, his feet ridiculously quick and his repertoire of skills extraordinary. Regularly beating three/four/five players at a time, he leaves opponents agog and fans laughing in incredulity and gasping in admiration. Zaha’s talents aren’t superfluous, however; his tricks serve a purpose, and he has added considerable end-product to his game in recent months. Detractors point to a lack of goals, but there are mitigating circumstances. His 14 strikes (and multiple assists) have come playing almost exclusively wide, in a side that, for a long time under Freedman, struggled to embrace creativity and expression.
Zaha’s future may be central, given his ability to go either left or right when taking on defenders and running with the ball at blistering speed. Currently he is dovetailing beautifully with new recruit Yannick Bolasie, offering a vibrant team wonderful balance and an exhilarating counterattacking threat.
While he is yet to play at the highest levels, Zaha has made many very good players look very foolish, and his is a game that will transfer to any stage, especially in this age of absent-minded defending. His defensive discipline and upper body strength are underrated facets of his game and, whilst it is acknowledged he still has plenty to learn, especially in keeping a clear head in light of a chronic lack of protection from officials, it is scary to think how good he will be. A January departure is unlikely, but one thing is more or less certain: come the summer, he will be a Premier League player. At this rate, that may well be with Palace.
The next superstar off the rank. Having broken his leg last season, Williams has had to contend with a frustrating succession of niggling injuries. Such setbacks have restricted him to 27 appearances for Palace (12 starts), yet it is clear – all hyperbole aside – that he is very much the real deal. New Palace boss Ian Holloway has drawn comparisons with David Silva, while academy peers gave Williams the nickname Joniesta. Such comparisons appear lofty, yet are indicative of the way Williams plays the game, and he has the tools to reach the top level. He plays with a maturity and intelligence that belies his 19 years, with a technique not typical of many British players.
Comfortable across midfield but strongest as a No.10, Williams glides across the pitch, finding and creating space with aplomb. Like Paul Scholes, he creates pictures seconds ahead of the rest. He can pick a perfectly weighted pass and dribbles with precision. He also has a dream of a first touch; one adhesive take against Burnley last month – instantly killing an over-hit cross while arriving at considerable speed – lingers in the memory, far too good for the Championship. Despite his diminutive stature, Williams – to use Sunday League parlance – likes to mix it. He also times his plays perfectly, often drawing fouls from clumsy defenders. Such factors may contribute to the niggles, but it would be foolish at this stage to look to try and alter his game.
Williams has been heavily involved with Wales at various levels. He has played for the Under-21s, been on the bench for the senior side and looks set to be part of a dynamic Welsh midfield for years to come alongside Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen and Gareth Bale.
Moses arrived in England from his native Kaduna at 11 and quickly made waves with his talent. Spotted by Palace and given a scholarship to the highly-regarded Whitgift School, Moses made an instant impact; powerful, skilful, and scoring goals for fun, his schoolboy feats became playground legend. A potent mix of technicality and physicality, Palace had unearthed a diamond that needed little polishing.
Moses was a first-team certainty, and sure enough earned a debut at 16 under Neil Warnock. He flattered to deceive initially, but by the time of his departure he was unplayable, scoring special goals and able to drift past defenders with ease. Administration forced Palace’s hand in selling Moses for a meagre sum and, while he was much-admired, only Wigan had the foresight to force a deal. Moses took a while to settle in unfamiliar environs, but the faith of Roberto Martinez was unwavering and the boss was rewarded, particularly last season, as a scintillating Moses helped the Latics avoid relegation once again with some penetrative and, at times, old-school wing play.
Moses has been in and out of the Chelsea side since his summer move, understandable considering the presence of Mata, Oscar and Hazard, but he has impressed when given a chance, demonstrating previously unheralded aspects of his game – notably his strength, aerial prowess and ability to produce a delicious pass. Still only 21, he is sure to be a vital player for Chelsea and Nigeria in the years ahead. Nigeria won the race for the international services of Moses against a dithering and complacent England, and, with the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations on the horizon, he is a key player for the appropriately monikered Super Eagles.
Now most famous for that penalty, that advert, and some reasonable but grey TV analysis (natty dresser though), it is easy to forget that Southgate was a fine player. Best remembered as an accomplished centre-back, Southgate played exclusively in midfield for Palace, captaining the First Division-winning side of 1993/94, under a manager, Alan Smith, who had reportedly told him at 17: “Son, no fucking chance.”
He was a combative and efficient central midfielder, capable of intense box-to-box play and the odd screamer. He served the club with distinction before moving to Aston Villa in 1995, where he successfully converted to centre-back. His reading of the game was perfect for the position and he was particularly adept in a three-man backline, making him a classic fit for the England of Terry Venables. He famously missed with an anaemic penalty against Germany in the semi-finals of Euro 96, but he had a super tournament.
Rarely was Southgate invited back into midfield, though he was, disastrously, employed as a defensive midfielder by Kevin Keegan in the infamous 0-1 reverse to Germany – the last England match for Keegan and Old Wembley. Southgate won an impressive 57 caps. To be honest, his talent probably deserved more silverware and a bigger club than Palace, Villa or Middlesbrough.
His spell as Middlesbrough manager was average, though his record at promoting players from another excellent academy was encouraging. Following relegation and the inevitable (though somewhat delayed) sacking, he was appointed head of elite development at the FA in 2011, helping to establish plans to vastly improve the technique of young English players and the quality and quantity of youth coaches. Having left that role he is, for now, exclusively to be seen covering ITV football, enduring the passive-aggression of Roy Keane and the curiosity that is Adrian Chiles.
The One That Got Away. In hindsight, that was a good thing. A Palace season-ticket holder, Bostock made his debut at 15 years and 287 days, making him the youngest player in Palace history. He spoke of his desire to captain his boyhood club. Then he left, for Spurs. Palace were furious.
Bostock spoke of stagnation and a dislike of Warnock’s style, but his words appeared to carry little merit. Thanks to some self-serving advice, he made a decision that has to this point backfired spectacularly. Nearing his 21st birthday, he has played for four loan clubs and made a grand total of 43 competitive appearances. He has yet to play for Spurs in the Premier League. Currently on the periphery at Swindon, his attitude has been questioned upon the early termination of previous loan spells. It would be foolish to disregard a player who is still a young man, but it’s nearing crunch time.
Not all promising players flower as hoped, but at 15 Bostock was warmly regarded globally. However you splice it, the move to Spurs was a poor one, and that has been great for the Palace academy – the perfect pointer for players considering supposed greener grasses. While Bostock has floundered, his contemporaries have blossomed, aware that the trappings and the riches will come later.
Football must come first, and the vast majority at Palace understand that. In February, the much sought-after Reise Allassani signed a contract, the largest ever offered to an academy player, acknowledging that Palace will allow him to flourish. The scouting and coaching at Palace is first-class, and the emphasis on youth will only grow further. Holloway wants to focus on the academy, and co-chairman Steve Parish has spoken of strangling playing budgets slightly to force the issue of promoting youth.
Bryan Davies has written for Palace fanzines as well as founding and editing the prestigious Oak Lodge Times. You can’t follow him as his brief Twitter career started and ended in March 2009.
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John Harkes: My Top MLS Rookies Of 2012
INTERVIEW: GARRY HAYES
As a pioneer in the movement of American soccer players to Europe during the Nineties, John Harkes enjoyed a fine career in England, winning the League Cup with Sheffield Wednesday in 1991. He also played for Derby County, West Ham United, DC United, Nottingham Forest and New England Revolution, before retiring at Columbus Crew in 2002. Now one of the leading voices on US soccer, he gives TheInsideLeft the low down on his top six rookies from the 2012 MLS season so far. Spoiled for choice, it didn’t take us long to break the numerical restrictions of the My Five series, but we hope you’ll forgive us as we find out why Harkes believes these Stateside prospects have what it takes to shine…
Image: Courtesy of John Harkes
TEAM: DC UNITED
‘Nick has come in under the radar and has stepped into a role on the wing with ease and has looked very capable for DC United. He is from Louisville University and can play on either wing, which is a big strength, although he is primarily a right-winger.
‘In the beginning part of the season he was playing way beyond his years and scored on his debut. He has a great touch and is very aggressive and likes to run at defenders, which causes teams a lot of problems. For a player so young, he is very calm in possession and seems to handle the pressure well when he is in tight situations.
‘I like him and while he’s picked up a few injuries of late that have kept him out of the team, I have no doubt that when he’s fully fit, he’ll be a first-team regular. He’s been an important part of the team this year and has definitely played a role in DC’s resurgence.’
TEAM: NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
‘He was a UCLA product and when New England signed him he made an instant impact at the start of the year. Kelyn (pictured below, centre) is small in stature, but he is very skillful and has excellent vision, creating a lot of opportunities.
‘He has been in and out of the team of late, but I was very impressed with his performances at the start of the year. I had actually seen him play for UCLA before he came into MLS and he’s one of those free-flowing midfielders that is a joy to watch.
‘It’s Jay Heaps’ first year as a coach and his first at New England, so he is still tinkering with the team to find his best line-up. The college game in America doesn’t really prepare players for MLS and it could be better, which is also why I think Kelyn has been in and out recently. But give him time and he will be one to look out for.’
TEAM: VANCOUVER WHITECAPS
‘I know I was supposed to list five players here, but Darren is a first-year rookie striker with Vancouver who has impressed me a lot and I couldn’t leave him out.
‘He has played for the Jamaican U23 team and is quick off the mark. He can sustain his pace, too, and has shown this season that he is more than capable of changing the game when he needs to.
‘He is an excellent finisher and I think he is only going to get better with age and as he becomes more experienced. He was selected second overall in the Super Draft from the University of Akron in Ohio and is a dynamic player.
‘He is tall, so has that physical presence that every good striker needs, but he has that killer instinct in front of goal, too. If he continues as he is, he will definitely catch the eye of many other clubs and I am predicting he will go far in his career.’
TEAM: NEW YORK RED BULLS
‘Ryan wasn’t expected to come in and challenge for a starting place right away, but he has kept his position in goal after some great performances for the Red Bulls. He does the basics well for a goalkeeper and is good technically, but he also reads the game well and is confident in the box, collecting crosses. He is still developing as you would expect with a rookie, but he is already looking very strong.
‘Before he came into the system I knew very little of Ryan (pictured below) and when people discussed what the class of 2012 would be like, he is one of the guys who has surprised everybody. He has done very well, though, playing for a club where there is a lot of pressure on the players, showing his mental strength. That is good to see as sometimes young players in MLS can struggle with that side of their game. Players in Europe tend to grow up faster as they’re put in more testing scenarios, so it’s good to see this quality in Ryan.’
TEAM: COLORADO RAPIDS
‘Tony is another of the rookies who came in and did very well at the beginning of the season. The one challenge he had was that Connor Casey, who is a former US international, was coming back from injury, so he wasn’t sure how much time he was going to get. He didn’t let that affect him, though, and he impressed.
‘He is great striker of the ball and has a good nose for goal. He links up play very well and his movement is very good. He is always developing and he is an excellent prospect. He is one player who I would be very interested to see in a year or two to see where he’s at as I think he’s a guy with a lot of talent.
‘What I also like is that he can play in different positions in attack, either through the middle, off another striker or in a deep-laying position.’
TEAM: PHILADELPHIA UNION
‘Raymon is starting to come of age at the Union and that is good to see. I like him, although I have to say, I have never quite pin-pointed what his full strengths are as a player. He can play out wide or in the middle and has looked good in either role.
‘He knows there is still a lot more to add to his game, but this season Raymon (pictured below) has been effective coming off the bench and contributing. With the coaching changes recently at the Union, he has also grabbed his chance. John Hackworth is the interim coach at the moment after Peter Novak got fired and he’s given Raymon more game time. He has really blossomed in that time and has done very well. With more opportunities, I think he’s a player who can achieve a lot.’
Garry Hayes has edited publications for The Football League, The FA and UEFA. You can follow him on Twitter @garryhayes and don’t forget to follow @theinsidelefty for all the latest from the site!
My Five: Lille Exports
WORDS: MATTHEW RICHARDS
The transfer story of the summer so far has to be Chelsea’s capture of Eden Hazard from Lille, the club where the Belgian creator became a French League and Cup Double-winner in 2011, as well as a household name across Europe. But Hazard certainly isn’t the first star to have made his name in Lille and, as supporters said farewell to another inspirational talent, we turned to one of their number to select his five stand-out departing heroes from the club known to its friends as LOSC…
Image: Julien Haler (via Flickr)
COR VAN DER HART (1950-1954)
One of the most influential figures in bringing the professional game to the Netherlands and it was all thanks to his move to northern France. Cor van der Hart was a graduate of the Ajax youth system and he went on to win the Eredivisie with the mighty Amsterdam club in his debut season in 1947. His decision to move out of his homeland, however, was not taken lightly.
Although van der Hart became a professional upon moving to France, it came at a cost as the Dutch governing body (KNVB) suspended him and any other players plying their trade professionally outside of Holland from their number. Van der Hart, then was unable to make his debut for the national side until returning home to play for Fortuna ’54, by which time the Dutch league had also taken on professional status. He had played a key part in the decision to break that barrier as well, having taken part in a fundraising game in Paris between a Holland XI (deemed unofficial due to the inclusion of several professionals) and France. The game proved to be such a success with the Dutch public that professionalism was taken into serious consideration by the KNVB and subsequently given the green light.
While at Lille, van der Hart made 114 appearances, scoring five goals. The talented defender goes down in the club’s history as one of its most influential players ever, while he will always be remembered in Holland as one of the ambitious few who brought about the initial changes that soon transformed the nation into a footballing legend.
YOHAN CABAYE ( 2004-2011)
A product of the youth system in place at LOSC since the age of seven, Yohan Cabaye (pictured below) quickly went about cementing himself as a regular for club and country. He was first brought into the side by Claude Puel, before his talent was polished by current Lille coach Rudi Garcia and, while his nine years at the club may have lacked silverware until he lifted the Double in his final season, that time spent with Les Dogues was certainly to thank for his development into a complete midfielder.
After Puel’s departure at the beginning of the 2008/09 season, Cabaye was given his now-trademark box-to-box role in the Lille side. Put into a system where he was given the freedom to play, Yohan blossomed. 31 goals in 191 first-team appearances came largely thanks to Garcia’s decision to allot a playmaking role to the Tourcoing-born youngster, but it was in the title-winning season of 2010/11 that his more disciplined style of play emerged, and it helped to secure a historic double for the club.
A move away appeared imminent, however, and Newcastle was his chosen destination, following a well-mannered departure from the club with whom he had spent so many years of his early career. And his first season in the Premier League turned out to be an outright success. He made 34 appearances, contributing nine assists and four goals as the Magpies shot to an unexpected fifth-place finish.
Lille supporters were among the few who were not shocked at his early success abroad. And, with his reputation on the international team growing too, the future continues to look very bright indeed for Yohan Cabaye.
Image: mikebrown59 (via Flickr)
JEAN II MAKOUN (2001-2008)
The emergence of Cameroon international, Jean II Makoun, came about amidst a stellar start to his career in European football with LOSC. A key part of Claude Puel’s side between 2001 and 2008, Makoun established himself as a first-team regular during a time of transition for the club. In his defensive midfield role he helped to free up the creative talents of emerging stars like Yohan Cabaye, Eden Hazard and Gervinho, as the club finished regularly in the top five spots in Ligue 1.
Makoun was also part of the Lille side that famously beat and finished above Manchester United in the group stage of the 2005 Champions League, although he subsequently suffered as part of the side that lost controversially to the same club in the Last 16 of the following season’s competition. He eventually called time on his successful spell at the heart of the Lille midfield when he completed a £14 million move to Lyon in 2008, where he was reunited with manager Puel.
76 appearances later, he moved again – this time to England. However, despite a less than smooth ride with his current club Aston Villa, where he has failed to make any real impact, Makoun remains one of Ligue 1′s stellar performers of the past decade and it is something of a shame that his contribution to Lille’s journey from top-five finishers to title-winners often goes unnoticed.
MICHEL BASTOS (2006-2009)
This left-sided Brazilian had a tough start to European life. A spell with Feyenoord between 2001 and 2003 saw Michel Bastos make no appearances for the Rotterdam club, with his only first-team experience coming when he was sent on loan to Excelsior, where he suffered relegation from the Dutch top flight at the end of the 2002/03 campaign. That summer, a move back to his home country followed and he remained something of a nomadic player, turning out for several Brazilian clubs until Les Dogues rediscovered him in 2006.
Used as both a left wing-back and an out-and-out winger by Claude Puel, Bastos made steady progress in his early career for the French outfit. A goal in the Derby du Nord, against Lens, certainly helped him make some friends among the locals, but it wasn’t until his permanent switch to left-winger that Bastos really started to excel. In 2008/09, the Brazilian managed 16 goals in 41 games, as well as receiving a nomination for Ligue 1 Player of the Year.
However, as new coach Rudi Garcia began to build Lille in his own image, Bastos, like Makoun, moved onto Olympique Lyonnais, following in the footsteps of Puel, where he quickly forced his way into the first team. Like many of the foreign players who have settled in Lille, Bastos (pictured below, in action for Lyon) has gone on to be one of the most recognisable names in Ligue 1, with his attacking talents on full display, week in, week out.
PER FRANDSEN (1990-1994)
Even though he is the most unglamorous name on this list by far, Per Frandsen was a popular figure in Lille and the Dane owes a lot to his time in the Nord region.
He was a record signing for LOSC in 1990, as the club clinched a deal to bring him to the north of France from Danish side B 1903. During his time at Lille, the gifted midfielder made 109 league appearances, grabbing 19 goals along the way and the exposure he gained in doing so earned him a move back to his hometown club, FC Copenhagen before he became a cult figure in the North-West of England during spells with Lancashire clubs Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers and, briefly, Wigan Athletic.
To some, his may have seemed an unexceptional career, but Frandsen deserves recognition beyond just being a footnote in Lille record books. He put a good shift in during a less than successful period in the club’s history and I have no qualms in saying my hat goes off to you, Per Frandsen, server of the unattractive Northern football teams!
Matthew Richards is an English LOSC supporter and Ligue 1 blogger. You can follow him on Twitter @MatthewAnthony9
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