In a summer packed with tedious transfer speculation surrounding the on-off-on-off sagas of Cesc Fabregas and Carlos Tevez, it was a pleasant surprise that Liverpool were this week linked with an €8m swoop for little-known Brest striker Nolan Roux. Liverpool sports director Damien Comolli obviously knows the French market well, but with Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez already at the club – not to mention Dirk Kuyt, Maxi Rodriguez, and at time of writing, David N’Gog, Joe Cole and Milan Jovanovic also on the books – where would Roux fit in? We asked a French football scout who has watched Roux in action for his thoughts.
How good is Nolan Roux?
I saw him play his first match for Brest, when he had just signed on loan from Lens. It was against Rennes in summer 2009, in a tiny stadium and with practically no-one watching, and he impressed me straightaway. He was clever with the ball, quite fast, decent distribution, agile with his movement despite not having huge sprinting speed, he used space well and had a good shot on him. I wouldn't say he is extremely gifted in terms of technique, but he is a good all-round player.
What’s his best position?
At Brest he played as the main striker through the middle, but he has the brain to play as the second forward. I think he might have played wide a few times too. He does drift out wide, sometimes a bit too often, but that shows a willingness to work the spaces and keep defenders moving. He’s a complete player, and his greatest asset is his shooting – he tried his luck on goal more than any other player in Ligue 1 and has a strong shot on him. He’s two-footed which is also pretty rare.
Despite being tall, he’s not brilliant in the air. It’s not a major problem but he’s not going to win flick-ons if teams play long-ball to him. There are some doubts about his physique: in the last two seasons, which are his only two in the first-team, he had spells on the sidelines, and he is very slender. But he’s not afraid to get stuck into opponents, he’s had a few scraps with defenders this season, he’s not afraid to get stuck in. Because he’s still young, he runs around a lot on the pitch and wants to do a bit of everything – that’s not always a good thing.
I can’t see Nolan Roux taking the Premier League by storm next season, especially when you consider what happened to Marouane Chamakh last year.
He only scored six goals last season.
Well, last season was his first in Ligue 1. He started the season really well, and of his six goals, five were in the first half of the season, and then he missed three months through injury. He struggled more in the second half of the season, probably because Brest were not doing as well then. They were newly-promoted and in the end, did well to stay up. In his first season at this level, you have to forgive some inconsistency.
Who does he play like?
A French magazine asked exactly the same question and came up with an interesting answer: that he was part Jean-Pierre Papin, and part Stephane Guivarc’h. It’s clever because it shows his strengths: he’s a scorer, he says he loves scoring goals and is obsessed by them. But there’s also a lot more to his game. Even though the Guivarc’h comparison is not necessarily a good one in England, in France he was huge, a guy who could take the ball from defence, hold it up, bring others into play, and create chances too. So he can do that too.
Is he good enough for Liverpool?
I think he’d be better suited to a mid-table side like Aston Villa, Fulham or Sunderland, somewhere where he would get more games. The problem about playing in England is that every team thinks they can qualify for Europe, so there is always a lot of pressure on young players to start scoring as soon as they arrive. If he goes to Liverpool, he will have even less time, as the demands will be so great. On top of that, he won’t be a starter, and at 23, he needs to start games. If he’s not playing between the ages of 23 and 25, then it becomes very hard for him. I think the kind of club he should go to is a Bordeaux, a bigger club than Brest, that will give him room to improve and, most importantly, to play. Schalke are also interested in him, and their profile seems a better fit than Liverpool. There would be less pressure there, and more opportunity to develop.
How does he compare to David N’Gog?
He is a better prospect than N’Gog was at the same age. N’Gog was not playing for PSG when he moved to Liverpool, and though PSG is bigger than Brest, at least Brest are playing in Ligue 1. But is he much more than that? I can’t see Nolan Roux taking the Premier League by storm next season, especially when you consider what happened to Marouane Chamakh last year. Roux and Chamakh are different players, but Chamakh had much more experience, a bigger aura, was a more established player and is much more technical than Roux, and even he struggled at times in his first season in England. So these things take time, and at 23, Roux is at the point of his career where it could go either way. He doesn't want to make the wrong move now. His next decision is a big one for him.
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