When an Arsenal player draws comparisons between yourself and one of the best players in the world, you must be doing something right. So what do we know about Nabil Fekir, the man Laurent Koscielny described as being like Lionel Messi?
Ladbrokes News takes an in-depth look at the Olympique Lyonnais forward.
A product of Lyon’s youth academy, Fekir was actually released by the club back in 2007, before being re-signed by the French giants in 2011 after impressing at a series of smaller clubs.
In modern day football, he’s considered a late bloomer, given that he didn’t make his first senior appearance until a month after his 20th birthday (shocking, right?).
Since then, the 23-year-old has represented the first-team on 71 occasions. And it seems the world are finally standing up and taking notice of the Frenchman, currently preparing to win his sixth international cap.
So, what’s all the hype about?
It’s not the first time Fekir has received such a comparison. In fact, the same words came from the mouth of Lyon’s chairman a couple of years ago.
The similarities between the players are evident. On face value, he’s just an inch higher than the Barcelona star, making him a nightmare for defenders as his low centre of gravity allows him to effortlessly twist and turn his opponents inside-out.
But a deeper look into Fekir’s style of play will tell you there’s even more truth in Koscielny’s judgement.
Comfortable on both feet, but favouring his left, Fekir is known in France for his close control and creativity, often producing moments of magic Messi himself would be proud of.
His first task when joining up with the first team in 2013 was to dislodge a forward partnership between Alexandre Lacazette and Bafetimbi Gomis, although his break came when the latter left France for Swansea City, meaning a starting-place was up for grabs.
His standout season came in 2014-15, where he managed an impressive 13 league goals and 12 assists and went on to win the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year, something Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry, Franck Ribery, Samir Nasri, and Eden Hazard have all won in the past.
Similarly, Messi’s breakthrough year in 2005 saw him win the European Golden Boy award.
Injuries halted both players in their early development, as Messi faced several months out with a torn hamstring back in 2006 and a metatarsal fracture later on in the year, while Fekir missed the majority of last season through damage to his knee ligament.
However, since then, the Argentine has gone on to prove himself as one of the best players ever to step onto a football pitch.
So can Fekir do the same?
While much of the focus has been on the progress of Lacazette at Lyon in recent years, Fekir has quietly gone about his business, achieving international recognition from France in 2015 prior to his injury.
But after two league goals and three assists in six games this year, the ‘next Messi’ is well and truly back.
And given Arsene Wenger’s history of signing young French talents, don’t be surprised if you hear Fekir’s name whispered around the Emirates in the next few transfer windows.
And should Koscielny’s comparison be anything to go by, there could well be some value in the 2/1 on his compatriot winning the Ballon d’Or at some point in his career.
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