Ligue 1 received a lot of plaudits last season. The title race was a lot more exciting than many predicted, with Marseille and Lyon pushing eventual champions Paris Saint Germain all the way. Last campaign also saw a French duo storm onto the scene as they attracted many admirers as the pair continued to torture defences.
Alexandre Lacazette and Nabil Fekir are both products of Lyon’s academy and were relatively unknown to football fans across the world before the start of the year. At this moment in time, they feature almost daily in the media rumour mill. Fekir graced the Stade de Gerland with his trickery and is now one of the hottest French footballing talents and that is who we will focus on in this piece as he arguably doesn't get the plaudits he deserves with Lacazette hogging most of the limelight.
The 21-year-old has pace in abundance. This, added in with the skill and trickery he possesses, make him a troubling player for defenders. The Lyon forward also has an eye for goal chipping in with a fair few last season. If he continues to improve his game, Fekir may well become a hero for the French. His performances earned him the French Young Player of the Year Award, an accolade won by the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry and Eden Hazard. He also earned a spot in the Ligue 1 team of the year.
Fekir travelled around a number of youth clubs before eventually joining Olympique Lyonnais in 2005, however, his first stint at the club was short lived as he left in 2007 before re-joining the French giants in 2011. He played in the youth team for two years before he was promoted into Lyon’s B team. In 2013, Fekir signed his first professional contract and he hasn't looked back since. His first season in Ligue 1 wasn’t the most successful; he played a total of 11 games scoring one goal and collected two assists in the process.
The following season is where things really kicked on for Fekir - he played 37 games in all competitions, scoring 16 goals and nine assists. For a 21-year-old in a very competitive league these numbers are not to be looked down on.
One of the strongest qualities in Fekir’s game is his versatility. His best position is behind the striker in the number 10 role, however, he’s also been utilised on the wing and as a striker – both on his own or partnered with Lacazette. His form for his club side was not overlooked on the international scene. He was firstly called up to Algeria’s squad for friendlies against Oman and Qatar in March 2015 but in controversial fashion he withdrew from the Algeria squad to join up with Didier Deschamps' Les Bleus.
Fekir has since played four times for France and currently has one international goal to his name, that came in a 4-3 defeat to Belgium and in typical Fekir fashion, he also has an assist on the international scene already which certainly won't harm his Euro 2016 chances.
Lyon boss Hubert Fournier saw the ability in Fekir and partnered him with Lacazette which turned out to be a match made in heaven. They had a combined total of 40 goals and 14 assists last season - a high number for two players who before the start of the season hadn’t played up top together. They helped guide ‘Les Gones’ to a second placed finish losing by eight points. Although they didn’t win the title, Lyon did qualify for the Champions League; a consolation prize of sorts, with Fekir playing a key role in helping them achieve that.
Keep an eye out for Fekir. He’s already had admiring glances from abroad with Arsene Wenger, who raised an interest in signing the youngster, speaking highly of him. Over the next year or so, he could become an integral part of the France side too and consolidate his position as a key member in the Lyon team.
By Callum Read – @