The following article is extracted from Get French Football News’s 200,000 word guide to the world of French football, The Get French Football News 100 which focused on ranking individuals’ performances over the course of 2014 as a calendar year. To download the whole guide, click here.
The following piece was written in December 2014 and published on the 5th January 2015. Florian Thauvin ranked 28th in our index out of French football’s 100 best players in this year’s Get French Football News 100, falling 18 places from his position in the previous edition of the Get French Football News 100.
“One of the great hopes of French football” is next up on the GFFN 100, as described by one of France’s greatest managerial exports, Arsène Wenger. This young attacking midfielder is certainly one of the most promising of France’s current under-21 crop and another player from Olympique de Marseille to figure in this most prestigious of lists. At the tender age of 21, Thauvin has enjoyed an almost stellar rise since his formative days at Grenoble Foot 38, who are now playing in France’s 4th division after bankruptcy in 2011. Currently plying his trade at big boys Olympique de Marseille, young Florian has attracted interest of many of Europe’s, and typically England’s, bigger clubs so far in the 2014-15 season thanks to his impressive performances and goal return.
Born in Orleans in January 1993, Thauvin found himself picked up by Grenoble, mainly playing for their under-17 and -19 sides before making his debut against Vannes in a 1-1 draw in Match 2011. Two more appearances followed in a defeat against Laval and another draw against Reims before Grenoble’s financial difficulties hit and an enforced relegation had many of the squad being taken on the cheap by other Ligue 2 clubs. Our man ended up in Corsica with SC Bastia.
13 appearances followed for the then 18-19 year old as the Blues finished champions of France’s second professional league. The following season Thauvin scored his first goal for Bastia in a famous 3-1 victory over Bordeaux. Two more goals for Thauvin in 19 appearances and nearly three times as many minutes played for the first team as Bastia finished 12th in Ligue 1.
Three days after his 20th birthday in January 2013 Lille negotiated a four-year contract for Thauvin, loaning him back to Bastia to complete the remainder of his 2012-13 season. In a fascinating turn of events, Thauvin never actually played a competitive match for les Dogues, who had seen the departure of coach Rudi Garcia and did not qualify for European football for the 2013-14 season.
Refusing to attend training and losing 1500 euros a day through the accompanying fines, Thauvin managed to force through a lucrative move to Marseille on the 2nd of September 2013, with Elie Baup parting with an estimated €15m in order to bring the 20 year old to the Stade Velodrome.
Florian got his European football and played in all six of OM’s group stage losses against Napoli, Arsenal and Dortmund. A dreadful campaign in Europe was overshadowed by OM’s deeply underwhelming league form which saw the south coast side finish 6th in Ligue 1, missing out on European football by an agonising, solitary point. His debut goal came against Reims as Marseille came from two behind to equalise, only to concede again to lose 2-3.
No dust on Florian’s back as the attacking midfielder scored seven more including three in 2014 against Valenciennes, Nantes and fellow Olympians Lyon, who despite the 4-2 loss inflicted by Thauvin’s Marseille, pipped the phocaeans to 5th place. A relatively satisfying season on a personal level for a player at such an early stage in his career, he found himself playing off the bench for much of the second half of the season as José Anigo opted to use the attacking midfielder more sparingly. “He needs time to grow”, stressed Anigo in March this year, who went on to add, “he’s having a bad time right now…he’s only 21.” A fair assessment of the talented young man, who many forget did not have a pre-season with his new side.
But this term he did have a pre-season under new manager Marcelo Bielsa, whom Thauvin recently described as “distant but sympathetic”, making us wonder why exactly Bielsa is being “sympathetic” to one of France’s most promising young footballers earning millions of euros a year. Perhaps the translator in question mistranslated the French word “sympathique” literally, when “nice” may have sufficed. Still, at the time of writing rumours are doing the rounds of an altercation at half time during OM’s 3-1 win over Metz on the 7th of December 2014, leading to his substitution and early departure from the Stade Velodrome.
A sour series of events if one is to believe them to be true as the young attacking midfielder has played 17 matches in total this season, scoring 4 goals and assisting two, the latest of the former coming against Nantes in a 2-0 win. That is one goal every 316 minutes. A moderately disappointing return for the young man so far this season, but he is making an impact with 11% of his team’s goals so far this season. Accordingly Thauvin’s international development has been steady up until this point, the highlight during which was his double against Ghana in France’s under-20 World Cup triumph in 2013.
He has most recently represented France with Les espoirs, the appropriately named “hopes” or “hopefuls”, or as we imaginatively call them, the under-21s. Thauvin has contributed six goals in the qualification rounds for the under-21 championship in the Czech Republic in 2015, including a hat-trick against Armenia, a brace against Armenia and another against not Armenia, but Sweden.
It is indeed Thauvin’s accomplished dribbling and finishing which sets this youthful prospect apart. His creativity and movement up front confuses his opponents, opening up space into which his teammates can run and create chances. He has a powerful left foot requiring very little pull back before he takes his shot.
His considerable strength is invaluable as he often decides to try and bulldoze his way into his opponents’ boxes, and demonstrates that intrepid optimism that can often leads to him assisting the odd tap in. A little rough round the edges, it is easy to miss Thauvin in all the hype surrounding Marseille’s star performers Payet and Gignac so far this season, but his speed and power has led Toulouse coach Alain Casanova to hail him as “a player in the image of Franck Ribery…very dangerous when he picks up speed. Very dangerous indeed.”
To receive praise from the likes of Casanova and Wenger must be gratifying for a player who is still very much at the start of his career. With OM currently sitting pretty at the summit of Ligue 1, Thauvin still finds himself the subject of transfer rumours to Europe’s football royalty, including chief admirer’s club Arsenal.
With news of Thauvin’s possible tiff with Bielsa surfacing, we might well see a move across ‘the Sleeve’ as the Channel is known in France. Perhaps even a move across les Alpes to Inter Milan might be on the cards. Who’s to say? But for a man with talent and an ambition to match, perhaps it is difficult to see him settling at Marseille. Still, despite the speculation Thauvin has assured us: “It’s flattering but I’m a Marseille player and they are a big club too. I feel really good here.”
“He’s got a great shot. He plays well up top and is able to take opponents out of the game with his movement. Above all, he has a good left foot. What he needs to work on is gaining experience. He has to get some matches together and tidy up his game.” – Olivier Saragaglia, Florian Thauvin’s coach at Grenoble.
“Florian Thauvin is one of the best players that I have ever trained.” Marcelo Bielsa