The past couple of weeks have been devoid of good news stories for Marseilles. On 14 January, they were held to a draw in a game everyone was expecting them to win against the hapless Monaco, and two days later, Wahbi Khazri’s heroics ensured they came out second best in their fixture against Saint-Etienne.
As a result, their hopes of a top three finish are dwindling by the week, and although bookmakers still have them as short as 5/4, even the growing community of sports fans enjoying online sports betting with bitcoin are starting to turn their attention to teams like St-Etienne and Montpellier as a more compelling way to invest their digital currency.
But while the team performance has been nothing to write home about, comfort can at least be taken from the fact that Rudi Garcia’s outfit includes the man officially recognised as the league’s top player.
Always in the action
Maxime Lopez is only 21, but he has shown maturity beyond his years and has established himself as the backbone of the Marseilles midfield. In the Monaco game, he seemed to be everywhere, and fans could justifiably have wondered if there were eleven Lopezes on the field.
If there had been, things might have ended differently, but as it was, he got the match off to the best possible start for his team, with a low shot into the corner of the net that seemed to sizzle through the air. After that, he touched the ball more than 100 times over the rest of the match.
Who is Maxime Lopez?
This is a lad who is Marseilles through and through. He was born in the city in 1997 to a Spanish father and Algerian mother, and has lived there all his life. At the age of 12, he joined the football academy, and he went on to represent the club at U-19 level in the UEFA Youth League. The club offered him a professional deal at the age of 16 and he made his first team debut in 2016. Lopez has also represented France at both U-20 and U-21 level.
With his North African lineage and his progression through the Marseilles academy, Lopez has inevitably been compared with Samir Nasri. A similar career path into the Premier League seems like a distinct possibility if he continues to progress at the current rate. Despite being small in stature at just 1.67 metres, he is a midfielder with immense agility and versatility. He also seems to have a natural talent for thinking on his feet – or to put it another way, a good “football brain.”
Best of the rest
Lopez topped the latest rankings with an impressive score of 97.8 out of a possible hundred. Second position went to a more familiar name, with Lille’s Nicolas Pepe racking up a rating of 95.0, thanks in no small part to his contribution in the team’s decisive 3-1 win at Caen. The 23 year old opened the scoring in the eighth minute, and went on to be instrumental in setting up both the second and third goals for Rafael Leao and Luiz Araujo. The result was exactly what the team needed after its disappointing loss to Toulouse over the festive period, and it puts Lille back in firm contention for a Champions League berth.
The third spot was claimed by PSG’s Julian Draxler, who has been consistently solid in the central midfield to help his team continue its seemingly unstoppable march to Ligue 1 glory. This is despite the temporary absence of Neymar, who has been nursing a minor knee problem.