Sometimes you have to celebrate the little victories in life, especially when you get hit by big losses time after time. That’s why all those associated with Ligue 1 should be delighted that Guingamp have tied promising youngster Ludovic Blas to a new contract that will now run until 2020, as opposed to cashing in on the player’s talent and as opposed to the youngster forcing a move that would have come far too early in his career and damaged his ability to fulfil his potential.
The reason that many have cast their eyes over the 18-year-old, despite his limited Ligue 1 action last season, was because of his continued contribution to the French U19’s squad that won the European Championships in the summer. Although not always a starter within the side, he impressed with his dynamism from midfield and his willingness to get involved with play.
My colleague Eric Devin described him as closely resembling Blaise Matuidi although not quite as physical as the PSG star, but possessing the same motor and box-to-box sensibilities.
What was important is that the very same colleague highlighted that there are areas in which Blas must improve, such as with his positioning and tackling, which was evidenced recently when he gave away a penalty against Monaco on the opening night of the Ligue 1 season.
This is exactly where his manager Antoine Kombouaré can and will step in as a mentor, to help Blas develop as a footballer at his own pace in a less-pressurised environment at Guingamp than he would have face in comparison to at one of the elite European clubs that he was being chased by.
The former PSG manager has a knack for improving young players and playing attractive football, conditions that Blas should thrive under in these early stages of his young career.
Being out of the big spotlight is a major plus, especially as a mistake like he made at the Stade Louis II would have been amplified tenfold elsewhere.
If he had done that at the San Siro for Inter Milan, a club he was linked with in the summer, he could have been crucified under the scrutiny that a team that size is under and it can seriously hamper a player’s development.
Not only that, but it is a big plus for Ligue 1 that a smaller team can keep hold of one of their most prized assets. Too often teams from abroad, especially in the cash-rich Premier League, swoop in and steal talent either on the cheap or for insane prices before they are ready, only for them to struggle and to be cast off as failures.
This could also mean that if Blas continues to grow and wants to advance his career next summer for example, Guingamp are in a strong position to command a better fee.
With his contract cemented for another four years, they do not have to worry about selling quickly for the cash and can allow Blas the freedom to choose a place that would fit him best rather than rush out the door to grab the dollar like it’s the end of the Crystal Maze.
Obviously this is all spiel for the time being, there is never any guarantee that a young footballer will blossom into the talent everyone hopes they will be.
Some are gripped by horrific injuries, some just never advance how many expected and some are simply later bloomers, prospering around the age of 22 rather than in their late teens.
Regardless, notch this one up to the plus column of both EAG and for French Football as a whole. They want to keep hold of the next Paul Pogba’s for as long as they can and this is one small step in the right direction for a league looking to push on as a force in Europe again.
But perhaps the greatest praise of all should go to Ludovic Blas and his entourage, for being sensible and rejecting a move to Lyon for example and others this summer. They have learnt from the recent mistakes of Lucas Tousart and Olivier Kemen, young French midfielders trapped at Lyon without playing time and without the possibility of leaving on loan to gain experience and made the bold but correct decision for Blas’s future.
Blas is an incredibly raw talent, who does not even have his positioned nailed down yet. He showed fantastic abilities this summer as a right-winger even for the French U19s on occasion, showing fantastic pace and trickery, even if it he is more likely to develop into a central midfielder.
If he continues to take smart decisions in the coming years like this one, the sky is the limit for Blas.
N.S. with N.D & E.D.