Blaise Matuidi To Man United? French Expert On Why Moyes Has Been Scouting The Frenchman
The Paris midfielder, whose contract ends in June 2014, seems to be the most lusted-after free agent in European football. If negotiations for a renewal fail this month, there is no doubt that Paris board will try to cash in now on a very attractive capital gain rather than see him leave for free next summer. Who’s interested?
If it wasn’t for a certain Franck Ribery who collected all the trophies he could get in 2013, Matuidi would have been voted best French player of the year.
If it was not for a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who does not seem to be willing to stop piling up goals and assists, Matuidi would have been voted best Ligue 1 player in 2013.
These honourable mentions, even though they are not helping him filling his personal trophy cabinet, are enough to prove what this man is now worth on the football market place. In Paris, he is the last Frenchman to be an obvious pick in Laurent Blanc’s best eleven. With the French jersey on his shoulder, he is the glue holding the defensive and offensive lines together. In a nutshell, his presence is essential for both teams he is currently representing and this did not happen easily.
Born in Toulouse from an Angolan father and a French mother, Matuidi spent most of his childhood in the east suburbs of Paris and played in various local clubs before being invited to join the national youth academy in Clairefontaine, aged 15. Never considered a genius during his junior career, he joined Troyes and declined an offer from the then almighty Lyon with the hope of earning more playing time.
Aged 17, he is immediately promoted to the U19 side but did not stay long as his tutor immediately sent him to the flagship team and made his professional debut in Ligue 2 a few weeks later. His coach is already praising him for his maturity, his resilience and his ability to anticipate events on the pitch.
Two full seasons in the top tier later, Matuidi still no more than 20 years old, goes a step higher and signs for Saint-Etienne (a 5M€ fee) and did not waste any time in making his mark at a legendary club. At the beginning of his second season there, he discovered the European cup with the captain armband on his shirt. Two convincing years later, he was called up by Laurent Blanc to play a summer friendly for the national squad he did not enjoyed his first cap on this occasion but would do it a month later in a Euro 2012 qualifier game in Bosnia.
In 2011, despite many top European clubs trying to seduce him, he decided to join Paris and its brand new project cooked by Qatari investors for a 10M€ fee. A first season of adaptation for a shaken up squad saw him impose himself as the most reliable recruit of all the new signings. Consistency in his performances are underlined by his new coach Carlo Ancelotti who won’t wait long before declaring him “one of the best midfielders in Europe” and offering him the captaining role when Ibrahimovic or Thiago Silva are missing.
His second season in the French capital two games will show to the whole world what this man can do: first a World Cup qualifier in Spain where he could be seen everywhere on the pitch for 90 minutes; second during the first leg of the Champions League quarter final played against Barcelona where on top of his usual production concluded the game with a strike keeping his team’s hope alive.
Under Laurent Blanc, the shape of Paris midfield changed a bit since now Marco Verratti is sitting right behind Thiago Motta and Matuidi, offering him more freedom to push his moves forward. The kid who was earlier in his career compared to Claude Makelele, shifted away from this model with his will to go forward and his efficiency when it comes to conclude counter attacks. In this sense and despite his very different physical abilities, I think he should be more compared to Patrick Vieira back when he was pairing with Makelele under the French jersey. He actually is the only example I can imagine of a box to box midfielder working on the French turfs.
Blaise is only aged 26 and despite a contract approaching its termination, is still valued just under 20M€ for an immediate transfer. Announced in Chelsea in a deal including Juan Mata going the opposite way or in Manchester City, Matuidi’s agent, the famous Mino Raiola, is certain to be kept very busy until the last second of the winter transfer market.
Aurelien is a freelance football writer from France