Florian Thauvin's renaissance continues
Familiarity, they say, breeds contempt. That is not the case with 25-year-old France international Florian Thauvin. The Marseille winger has been in sensational form for the 1993 Champions League winners this term. Thauvin has scored 16 goals and registered 15 assists across the board. Opponents tend to be caught in Rudi Garcia's pincered attack, with former West Ham star Dmitri Payet's five goals and 12 assists on the opposite flank. Powered by the creative duo l'OM sit third in Ligue 1, a single point behind Monaco. English football fans, especially Geordies, will not quite believe Thauvin's statistics, given he struggled to impress with Newcastle.
The past week has highlighted the left-footed right winger's quality. he offered yet another glimpse of his undoubted quality.
He opened the scoring in Les Olympiens' two-goal draw with St Etienne on the weekend. Camped in the box, he turned a curling cross into the corner. One that was behind him. In the midst of a driving rain.
The manager initially rested him in the Europa League home leg against Braga, but sent him on for Valere Germain on 70 minutes. The score was 1-0 in OM's favour. Garcia wanted to pad the lead for the away leg. Only, Germain was about to double the lead with his second of the game. The interaction between the substituted player and boss was comical. One's dismissive wave communicated his anger he wouldn't have the opportunity for a hattrick. The other's Gallic shrug plainly answered, "You should have done it sooner; how was I to know you were going to score while Thauvin was standing on the touchline?"
Body language and gesticulation make French an easy language to learn.
Thauvin was oblivious to the exchange, his head already in the match. Less than two minutes later, he came back to collect the ball, then sent a perfect diagonal across the pitch to lead Payet into space. The captain's shot forced a diving save from Mathaeus. The Braga keeper would have his nose bloodied soon after. Following a six-minute delay, Thauvin took advantage. Working three one-twos with Maxime Lopez as he cut across the box from the right, he finally released a shot through a defender's legs and beyond the woozy keeper.
The confident, commanding performances are completely different to his time as a 22-year-old with the Magpies. Signed as a marquee talent, he wasn't ready for the spotlight. Steve McClaren loaned him out six months later.
The springy left-footed genius has looked fitter and hungrier at the Velodrome. The results are proving his quality. Three years on from his time at St James Park, he has matured. There is every possibility he will be part of the France squad for this summer’s World Cup.
He may even start for Les Blues. Ousmane Dembele has not hit the anticipated heights at the Camp Nou. The 20-year-old Barcelona man has struggled for fitness ever since he made the move from Borussia Dortmund. Unless he rediscovers his form in the season's final three months, Didier Deschamps may decide to ride his hot hand.
Only Neymar has more assists (11) in Ligue 1 than Thauvin’s ten. Saying someone is no Neymar is hardly an insult. Thauvin has been directly involved in 31 goals over 35 appearances this campaign. That is outstanding.
PSG (who else?), Juventus, and an assortment of Premier League outfits are reportedly interested in the 25-year-old's services. Marseille, unsurprisingly, are extremely reluctant to sell. The club has quality throughout the lineup. It is among the favourites to win the Europa League this term. Even if it cannot in a field riddled with top clubs, the Champions League beckons next season. Thauvin is playing under a manager who has confidence in him, in a squad that can win trophies. he must take care in choosing his next move. Staying where he is for another season or two may be the ideal choice.
Many have questioned Ligue 1's quality. Paris Saint-Germain is viewed as a man among boys. Yet, Monaco, Lyon, and Marseille are all top sides. Who the principality club recruits with the €180 million due at season's end for Kylian Mbappe will only make the league more competitive. In the long run, marseille cannot compete with PSG. It will need to sell Thauvin while it can extract maximum value for the star. That needn't be this summer, however.
For his part, Thauvin must remember his Newcastle experience. Financial incentive isn't the only reason to move. Playing regularly must be foremost in his mind. At Marseille, he will.
Regardless his choice, Florian Thauvin’s current story proves a man is not down until he believes he cannot rise anymore.