Tottenham Hotpur Target Younes Belhanda: All You Need To Know About Montpellier's Moroccan Magician
Younes Belhanda was born near Avignon in South of France from Moroccan parents. He grew up there playing football in various local clubs as a centre back. In his teens, he attracted the eye of many acclaimed youth academies (including, Lyon, Monaco, Marseille or Saint-Etienne) but was denied any move away from his native area by his parents. A bit later, when local club Montpellier rang the bell of the family house, there was no stopping him.
He soon began playing with the professional reserve team, but a step higher on the match day lineup than what he was used to, being tested as a holding midfielder. That was in 2008 and on this year, Montpellier won the biggest trophy for players of his age, the coupe Gambardella (equals to the FA youth cup).
During the summer break he signed his first professional contract and soon discovered the ligue 1 on the first game of the season played against Paris. He quickly moved to the side of the midfield though, Montpellier’s central positions being strongly held at the time.
Two years and a half later, he did not miss much of the first team action, playing a crucial role in the surprising ascending trajectory taken by the club. A 5th place finish followed by another decent year seasoned with a league cup final and now the apogee, taking part into a 2 heads fight for the Ligue 1 crown.
As it happened before with many of his team mates (like Mapou Yanga Mbiwa, Olivier Giroud or Remy Cabella) his name begins to be spoken out in some of the more famous stadium corridors, whilst Mancini could steal in; leaving other top teams fight for Hazard while a cheaper equivalent is waiting his turn.
With a place in the next season Champions league guaranteed (they currently lay in 2nd position, 13 points clear of the non-European 5th place), Montpellier’s management and players could already consider that they overachieved. Some say most players are all preparing the next one with their agents.
Some players will leave over the summer, inevitably, even with a great sporting challenge ahead of them; they know that international glory (and international salaries) cannot be obtained at the club. Younes, a Moroccan international fits in this category. He needed a club like Montpellier in order to break his shell but now his talent requires a bigger stage.
While most of the top teams in the Premier League are not-so-secretly sharpening their knives and their chequebooks to land a signature from Belgian gem Eden Hazard, some of them might be interested in an cheaper solution to animate their attacking lines.
Eden Hazard and Younes Belhanda are sharing a similar profile: young, skilful, fast, scorer as much as assist provider and both on the market in June. The main difference is that Hazard came under the spotlight a year before and therefore is much more coveted by the big guns of the Premier League. This alone explains why Belhanda’s tag price should be way below the Belgian’s.
Some might say that the gaffer’s flair regarding cross channel transfers is declining, Chamakh and Gervinho being quoted as examples of recent underachievement. But let’s not forget what has been done previously (or even in the meantime with the interesting signing of Laurent Koscielny). He's the type of player who could give Tottenham Hotspur the push they need to cement a top four spot.