The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Matthew Smith Headshot

Look to France for the World's Next Best Player

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

Whilst many of the transfer sagas in Britain - those concerning Mata, Luke Shaw, half of Norway coming to Cardiff - are protracted, for the most part they are intense rather than bitterly unpleasant. The same could not be said across the channel, where France's longest running saga of last summer finally ended on deadline day after months of acrimony and strikes (and not the good kind).

Florian Thauvin was the man at the centre of attention. The 20-year-old attacking midfielder joined Lille from Bastia last January for €3million, before being promptly loaned back to the Corsican club in order to gain more experience in time for the new season.

But by the time the new season came, Thauvin had changed his tune. A hit at the summer's U-20 World Cup, he felt too big for the north-eastern outfit, and went on strike in order to force a move. Imagine if Wilfried Zaha went back to Manchester United after being loaned back to Palace, and announced he now wanted to play for Arsenal. Now add French accents, and you have the situation.

In the end, after possible moves to Arsenal and Newcastle failed to materialise, Thauvin became a Marseille player on 2 September, leaving Lille with a healthy monetary profit, but still seething. It's no surprise they're angry; Thauvin has potential to be the next Henry.

His performances as France won the U-20 World title were enough to indicate that much. Playing in all seven games, he popped up with three crucial goals and numerous important assists, both from behind the striker and on the right wing. His most crucial contribution came in the semi-final, scoring both goals in the 2-1 defeat of Ghana.

Strong in body and in shot, it wasn't surprising to see Thauvin more commonly used down the centre at the Stade Velodrome, rather than in the wide role he assumed at Bastia. With a decent goalscoring record from wide positions - 10 in 45 games for Bastia - a potential Henry-esque switch inside from the wing has materialised, earning him five goals in 13 league games for Marseille. He certainly has the anticipation for it - significantly more of his goals come from in and around the six-yard area, comprising of well-anticipated finishes and tap-ins, than Henry would ever score.

His scoring ability is exacerbated by his ability to use both feet. Primarily left-footed, cutting in from the right to unleash a pile driver on the opposition keeper, the skill reels on YouTube demonstrate a man more than comfortable to humiliate his opposition from either side.

Easily his most impressive goal came last season against Valenciennes in Ligue Un. Breaking away from an opposition corner, Thauvin picked the ball up 25 yards from his own goal, sped past the lacklustre Valenciennes midfield down the right, casually cut into the opposition box on that left-footed hammer, and from eight yards buried it just inside the post. The step up to a bigger club hasn't brought him down a jot.

It certainly looks as if Marseille's £12.7million expenditure was well spent. The only question remains as to whether his head may be turned again when he makes that inevitable step to the next stage, with Chelsea, as they are with every young attacking midfielder on the planet, showing an interest.

Around the Web

Florian Thauvin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Florian Thauvin French Maestro | Skills & Goals ᴴᴰ - YouTube

Florian Thauvin - Player profile - transfermarkt.com

Florian Thauvin Bio, Stats, News - Football / Soccer - - ESPN FC

Chelsea scout Marseille's Thauvin