Star turn from France Nasri alternative sure to thrill Liverpool
Mathieu Valbuena’s all-action display in France’s 3-0 World Cup Group E opening-fixture win over Honduras will have left Samir Nasri’s foul-mouthed other half feeling a little sheepish, and should also have given Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers plenty to ponder over the summer.
The Marseille midfielder was in the thick of everything good about Didier Deschamps’ side’s display in Porto Allegre, firing off three shots, putting in teammates with three key passes and successfully completing two dribbles, while only anchorman Blaise Matuidi touched the ball more often.
Deschamps caused quite a stir when leaving Nasri out of his 23-man squad ahead of France’s bid for a second World Cup at 18/1 odds, but those in the know were only too aware that the Manchester City maestro faced a struggle to supplant the 29-year-old in the first XI.
Valbuena started all eight of his country’s qualifying Group I matches, when they finished just three points behind world champions Spain, but made way for Nasri in the subsequent play-off first leg away to Ukraine.
With France 2-0 down and in search of inspiration for the return fixture, Deschamps ditched Nasri and brought back the L’OM playmaker, a decision vindicated by the 3-0 win that saw them take their place in Brazil.
Valbuena has spent his entire career thus far in Ligue 1 and completed his eighth term at the Stade Velodrome in 2013/14, but Marseille could not preserve their Champions League status when finishing sixth and their star man is thought to be amenable to a move away.
Liverpool have been repeatedly linked with Valbuena since the end of last season and while he doesn’t quite fit into their ethos of buying young, developing players, Rodgers could certainly use some of the Aquitaine native’s guile in a squad that’s still short of numbers.
Next up for France are Switzerland in Salvador, with Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side the 10/3 outsiders against Deschamps’ 17/20 pokes and the draw 13/5.
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