Valencia midfielder Sofiane Feghouli is attracting attention from Manchester United and Liverpool, according to the English press, but is the player once dubbed the ‘New Zidane’, what United really need?
It was a February night as Barcelona looked to seal their place in the Copa Del Rey final. Barca being Barca, they were in control. Slick passing, nice movement and keeping the ball, the Valencia players were lost. Barca didn’t play a high tempo but they made Los Che chase the ball, as they pinged it about casually. Suddenly Gerard Pique looked to have made a mistake and was closed down by Sofiane Feghouli. The French born, Algerian international ran at Pique but the former United defender recovered and passed it on. Unlike most of his team-mates who had now given up, even though they were only a goal down, Feghouli was not prepared to lie down, even if it meant chasing shadows. It would demonstrate some of his major strengths, his determination and hard work mentality. Soon later he would walk, showing one his flaws, as his frustration boiled over and he was sent off for getting Carlos Puyol in the face.
Feghouli was born and raised in France to a family with Algerian roots. He was signed by Grenoble when Paris Saint-Germain rejected him after a trial. He made his first team debut for Grenoble in the 2nd Division at 17 and started to make an impression. Some dubbed him the ‘New Zidane’ but the added pressure did not distract him. He played in a playmaker role for the French side but also drifted out to the left. In 2009 he was rumoured to be attracting attention from some big European clubs but an injury, which resulted in a few months on the sidelines, shelved any move. After recovering and playing in five matches at the start of the 2009-10 season it was discovered the player had another injury. He recovered successfully from the operation but was slow to return to training. Grenoble questioned the loyalty of the player who was free to negotiate with other clubs at the end of the season, and sure enough when May came around he signed with Spanish side Valencia, to the disgust of Grenoble.
On arrival at Valencia he struggled to regain his sharpness and fitness. He was sent out to Almeria on loan in January. Whilst he was there he met officials from the Algerian FA who persuaded him to play for Algeria instead of his birth country, France. He has represented France at various youth levels but had yet to make an appearance for the senior team, although he had been in one of Raymond Domenech’s squads. He believed he would get more chances to play at Algeria and he scored on his debut. He returned to Valencia after his loan and was given a bigger role. The side had just sold Juan Mata and the year before David Silva and needed someone to step up. Feghouli would be that player.
Unai Emery struggled to win over the Valencia faithful. His style was seen as ultra defensive and cautious and there were games the team were booed off the pitch. One of the positives was the emergence of Feghouli. He showed talent and promise and in some games was unstoppable but he also showed signs of immaturity, the red card against Barca for example, and also failed to show up at times in games but he was still attracting attention for some major clubs. He has started the season under new Coach Mauricio Pellegrino on the left wing. He can play down the line and also cut inside but can equally be used as a playmaker. He is seen as more a supplier than scorer, but that said, last season he scored six and this season he already has two.
The main interest is reportedly from Liverpool and Man United. The player has two years on his contract and last summer said he was keen to stay, but United is United, and it may be too big to say no to. He is still just 22 and would need an adaptation period to the Premier League. Some would argue that United need a more experienced and accomplished player for the central midfield, an area were they are deemed to be lacking. Could Feghouli fill that hole? There are arguments for and against. One thing is for sure; he would certainly give everything to make it work.