Grands Espoirs - Best French Talent

Matteo Guendouzi: Lorient’s Talented Midfield Dynamo

 • by Andrew Gibney
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Bouncing curly hair, sweeping midfield passes, at this point you might have visions of Chelsea and former Paris Saint-Germain defender David Luiz, or his former team-mate and now full France international, Adrien Rabiot, but think again.

There is a new pretender to the majestic hair crown in Ligue 1 and it comes in the form of 17-year-old midfielder, Matteo Guendouzi. It’s interesting that after their pursuit for Rabiot – before he secured first-team football in Paris – Tottenham Hotspur are reportedly already keeping a close watch on the young Frenchman.

Don’t be surprised not to have heard of him just yet, playing for bottom of the table side FC Lorient, the teenager has only started three times after making his debut off the bench in the Week 9 defeat to FC Nantes.

Testament to how much belief Les Merlus have in their young starlet, they have handed him the number 4 jersey and he’s started the last three league games.

English clubs, knowing how quickly and regularly talent is produced across the channel, are constantly keeping an eye on French clubs. From Riyad Mahrez at Le Havre, to N’Golo Kante at SM Caen, there are gems to be found and the Stade du Moustoir in Brittany is one of the best stadiums in France to find them.

Lorient Talent Truck

Laurent Koscielny, Andre-Pierre Gignac, Kevin Gameiro, and emm, Didier N’Dong (sorry Sunderland fans) are just some of the names that have taken their first steps towards the Premier League via Lorient. Guendouzi certainly has all the attributes needed to attract some attention.

Foot Mercato in France released a report suggesting that Mauricio Pochettino and his staff have been impressed by how quickly the teenager has adapted to his place in the Lorient first-team.

Playing at the foot of the table, you don’t need a player that complicates matters, and Guendouzi tries his best to keep the game simple. In his 274 minutes of top flight football, his passing his been crisp and clean. Even when there are more glamorous options ahead of him, the teenager plays the percentage pass, and that’s why he has completed 93.7% of his passes so far.

Very right-footed, he may need to work on being able to do the basic moves on his weaker foot, but for now it seems he is concentrating on making sure what he does do, he does well, and it’s working.

Also looking to get open for the pass, there are elements similar to his game that we saw in young Olympique de Marseille midfielder Maxime Lopez, but with less of the attacking instincts.

Playing on the half turn, as soon as the ball is on its way Guendouzi is on the half-turn, looking to move the ball forward. Rather than look for that killer pass, quite often he sweeps the play wide.

Rabiot Comparison

With his curly hair and long legs, the passing style and movement is very reminiscent to that of PSG’s Rabiot. The Parisian is now averaging over 63 passes per game for the capital club and with the 17-year-old down at 35.8, there is a gulf in class between them. Yet, when the former Man City youngster was in his early stages, playing on loan for Toulouse, he actually averaged fewer passes.

Lorient obviously have faith in the youngster, looking to get him on the ball. From a distance, he looks confident and assured, then you get a close up and you see how young he looks.

That immaturity and naivety is clear to see when he tries to do too much. On a number of occasions, especially in the 2-1 defeat to Bordeaux, he tries to beat his opponents off the dribble, but ran into trouble. That will come with time. Although not quick, his long legs and rangy stride will see him, like Rabiot has done, mature into a competent dribbler.

Defensively he is eager and doesn’t give up any fight and his numbers reflect that, making 1.8 tackles and 1.5 interceptions per game. Guendouzi has also committed 1.5 fouls per game – picking up two yellow cards. Rabiot is up at 2.3 tackles, but the same for interceptions, same with Lopez at Marseille, fewer tackles and interceptions, but also fewer fouls and more of the ball.

Paris Graduate

A graduate of the PSG academy, he used to play with Odsonne Edouard, Jonathan Ikone and Alec Georgen, all who are highly thought of in the capital, but Guendouzi, also a France Under-18 international has made the move to Brittany to find his feet in professional football and it seems to have paid off so far.

“The jump from your first contract to starting in Ligue 1 requires a very particular attitude,” said Régis Le Bris, director of Lorient’s Training Centre. “Few players are able to do it, but we have great belief that (Matteo) will rise to the challenge.”

Just to put a rubber stamp on his potential, the teenager was voted as FCL’s Player of the Month for October by the fans.

Foot Mercato didn’t name names, but they mentioned that Spurs were not the only English club that have shown interest, but also dropped in Juventus, Wolfsburg and Benfica, marking off the rumour bingo card.

Guendouzi is under contract until 2019, but if he continues to impress and especially if Les Merlus fail to keep their place in Ligue 1, you can guarantee that a number of clubs will be swooping to pick up another French bargain.

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