Following the footsteps of Karim Benzema, Alexandre Lacazette and arguably Hatem Ben Arfa, Nabil Fekir is the latest exciting youngster to excite the Olympique Lyonnais faithful. The 21 year old has also caused a full fledged international dispute between his birth country France, and heritage country Algeria. France won the fight as Didier Deschamps called out Fekir’s name when he read out his international squad for the friendly against Brazil and Denmark.
21-year old Fekir has been a real revelation this season and has formed an absolutely daunting attacking duo alongsidea Alexandrea Lacazette. He has played an admirable and integral role in the club finding themselves as serious contenders for winning their first Ligue 1 title since the 2007/08 season.
Fekir is not only delightfully skilled, but is also a very hard working player. He spends a lot of time in training and also covers huge amount of ground during a game.
Fekir can play anywhere in the front line-winger (preferably on the left), just behind the striker or a secondary striker with another forward. The fact that he can be operated in many positions makes him an asset to have within the ranks since he can deputize in case key members go missing. Incredibly pacey, his left foot have earned him comparisons with Lionel Messi (and Arjen Robben) by Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas.
I have the same eyes for Fekir as the president of Barcelona has for a small Argentine who relies heavily on his left foot as well. He is my Messia
-Jean Michel Aulas (February 2015)
People who watched the French league last season saw glimpses of Fekir’s potential in the eleven appearances he made. However, it is only now that injuries to Clement Grenier and Yoann Gourcuff have given him the opportunity to play a starring role and the player has taken the opportunity with both hands and performed it with conviction.
It is true that Alexandre Lacazette is grabbing all the headlines- the player has truly done a great job this season and has earned all the praise coming his way. However, in helping Lyon remain in contention for the league, Fekir’s role cannot be understated.
Fekir played the season’s first game against Rennes, but was only involved for 26 minutes. He didn’t feature for Lyon in the next three games and only came back against Monaco. It was a return that pleased everyone as he played for 74 minutes and grabbed a goal in the process. Since then, he has started all of Lyon’s games in the league except for the one against SC Bastia in November, where he wasn’t in the squad.
That makes it 26 league games in the season (at the time of writing) and 11 goals and 7 assists to show for the participation in the games- not a bad record at all, is it?
Fekir’s dribbling abilities are especially eye-catching. He has the ability to do so intricately in small areas which shows he can exploit even the smallest holes and gaps with relative ease. His vision and footballing intelligence stand out immediately when one watches his game. He can knit passes incisively and can spot a teammate who will have the best opportunity to get the attack going. Therefore, Fekir becomes instrumental in attacks as he either goes forward and does the work himself, or he moves the play forward to his teammates who are in the best position to do so. Fekir is not all about scoring, which his 7 assists illustrate. He also tracks back and helps with the defending when required.
There are not many noticeable weaknesses in his game but for his weaknesses in aerial duels. His slight stature sometimes makes him a target in aerial duels as he often easily loses them.
He has earned comparisons with Eden Hazard and Mario Goetze, both due to the playing styles, versatility across the front line, as well as the small stature. But the one player with whom the comparison seemed almost inevitable is France legend Zinedine Zidane.
The comparison is flattering, but seriously Ia m very far from the level of Zidane. Ia m not a world-class player but Ia ll work with my club to try and get there.
-Fekir to La Equipe on March 10, when asked about the comparisons with the former World Cup winner.
It is not only the playing styles that remind one of Zidane while watching Fekir, but also the similar international background. Zidane, also of Algerian origin, chose to represent France at the international stage and what a decision that turned out for him and for Les Bleus. If Fekir can go on to do the same with Deschamps’s team, especially with the Euro 2016 at home, it would prove to be a wonderful d j vu for the French national team.