The whole footballing world is currently obsessing over Lille’s prize asset, 21 year old, Eden Hazard who is sure to leave the 2011 French champions this summer – being linked with nearly every top club, most notably, Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea, his market value could go over the roof with the immense competition for his signature. However, there is another player, much similar to the Belgian sensation who could deliver the same kind of performances but for a much cheaper fee – current Ligue 1 table toppers, Montpellier’s 22 year old Moroccan, Younes Belhanda – the budget Eden Hazard.
The following is a scout report:
Name: Younés Belhanda
Club: HSC Montpellier
Position(s): Central midfielder, attacking midfielder, winger
Preferred foot: Right
Contract: Expires June 2013
Appearances since 2010: 83
Goals since 2010: 17
Assists since 2010: 12
- Dribbling- initially a winger, as a central midfielder, Belhanda still possesses the ability to dribble past his opponent and with 1.3 successful dribbles per game this season in the league, it only serves to show how good he is in that regard with only 19 other players including the likes of Eden Hazard, Javier Pastore and Nene, having a better dribbling rate while the Moroccan has a better dribbles per game average than the likes of Angel Di Maria, Cesc Fabregas, Antonio Valencia, Juan Mata and Mesut Ozil.
- Eye for a pass – since being deployed as a playmaker, Belhanda hasn’t disappointed with his knack of finding killer passes, leading to many match winners for the French side. With a pass success percentage of 80.1%, 2.1 accurate long balls per game and 0.4 accurate through balls per game (75% accuracy), Belhanda is one of the best players the French league has to offer in the passing department.
- Creativity – with Belhanda not in the team, Montpellier don’t look half as much exciting or creative during his absence and this was seen in the game against Rennes in which the Moroccan was suspended for. Belhanda oozes creativity and bundled along with his playmaking role, it is a formula for success – Belhanda averages 2.3 key passes per game (passes leading to goalscoring opportunities) and has made 64 key passes in total this season – only 5 players in France have a better key passes per game average than Belhanda.
- Technical ability
- Aerial ability
- Tracking back/defensive duties – every player has defensive work to do, and Belhanda seems to be poor in that regard with only 0.9 tackles, 0.4 clearances and 0.8 interceptions per game.
- Crossing – for a player who was initially a winger, Belhanda’s crossing ability is a particular weakness with the Montpellier man having attempted 116 crosses this season, with only 29 of them being accurate.
- Temper – the Moroccan is known to not keep his temper in check as it was just last week where he was involved in massive brawl and is currently banned domestically for punching Evian’s Cédric Mongongu. Speaking of the same game, he turned on fellow teammate, Giroud who didn’t take an injury time penalty which Camara eventually missed by saying that the Frenchman was “not assuming his responsiblities” though the Moroccan apologized afterwards saying, “It was frustration that made me talk and I shouldn’t have spoken to the press.“
- Montpellier coach, René Giarar has compared Belhanda’s game to that of Arsenal legend, Robert Pires.
- Very quick player who loves to dribble and can notably, do it with ease, leading defenders with no choice but to foul the playmaker to stop him – the Moroccan is fouled 2.2 times per game as a result.
- Can shoot from distance and is a set piece specialist.
- Born in France, but chose to represent Morocco where he is a regular.
- Originally a winger, but deployed in the center of midfield as a playmaker.
- Helped Montpellier to a Europa League spot in his first full season.
- Directly contributed to 17 goals in 28 league games this season (at the time of writing.)
- Belhanda is a key figure in the Montpellier team along with striker, Olivier Giroud – both having a great understanding with each other.
- Currently on course to spearheading Montpellier to the French league title with 2 games to go (at the time of writing.)
The Moroccan international has come a long way since graduating from the La Paillade academy three seasons ago. In his new role as a playmaker for Montpellier, he has simply flourished and become a key cog for the French team as they look to embark on a first French league title in their entire history, currently leading PSG by 3 points with 2 games to go. While the big clubs going after Eden Hazard, Belhanda would certainly be a cheaper alternative and one who could possibly even be better, while being worth every single penny – expect the Moroccan to make a big club move soon with clubs in Arsenal, Liverpool and AC Milan being linked.
Stats Courtesy: WhoScored