One of the two Ligue 1 Central Midfielders of the Year is Mathieu Valbuena:The servant of French football has been at it yet again this year. The 28 year old Marseille star has put in one of his best seasons yet in order to guide Marseille to an above expectation Champions League place and allowed them to keep fighting PSG for the title until almost the very end.
As much as this team of the year is based on performances in Ligue 1, it is not only the league where Valbuena has shone this season. The 28 year old has been in great form for the National team of late and must now been classified as their most consistent performer over the last 12 months. So what is it about Valbuena that meant you voted him into this year’s Get French football News’s Ligue 1 Team of the Year?
Valbuena has finished the Ligue 1 season with the top amount of assists for this campaign. (12- alongside Dimitri Payet). The Frenchman has this ability to fire accurate balls into the area from range, which often leads to a goal. He also is skilful enough to beat defenders and play the likes of Jordan Ayew and Gignac into space behind the last man. Valbuena has been criticised for his finishing in the past as well, but this season he has proven a point. Despite only clocking up three goals this season, none of them have been tap-ins and the player scored an absolute belter against Bastia.
Valbuena is very versatile and has the ability to play in numerous attacking positions. He has mainly played as an attacking midfielder this campaign, but has the ability to play out on the right or left and despite starting in a centralised role in most games this season, he has the ability to roam around onto both wings so that he can deliver his pinpoint balls into the box. The Marseille team is by no means the standard that it used to be, but the ‘French Iniesta’ is allowing the fans to connect with the good times again at the Stade Velodrome.
Valbuena has started 27 out of the 38 league games at Marseille this season, showing just how important a player he has been for French club. Valbuena’s assist count may be helped by the fact that the player takes the majority of set pieces. Nevertheless, the tireless efforts the player puts in week in week out have not gone unnoticed. For a player who is little over 5 foot, it is incredible the way that he is able to barge people of the ball and uses his low centre of gravity to beat defenders with his pace and skill. Whether he would be able to do the same in a League such as the Premier League, which is more physical than Ligue 1 is debatable, whoever.
It is not as if Valbuena is a newly discovered talent. He has been a familiar face across Europe for some time; but this season has debatably been his most consistent one. Valbuena has been linked with moves away from Marseille before, to the likes of Arsenal and Fenerbahce, but he has always stayed loyal to his side. Now, however, it appears that Valbuena is attempting to force a move:
“I want to play in a team very ambitious and competitive, that does not just make up the numbers in the Champions League”
Time will only tell where ‘Valby’s’ future lies but there can be no doubt as to how crucial a player he has become for Olympique de Marseille. Felicitations Mathieu!