On November 14th 2012, one man stole my heart. After two and a half years of keeping my feelings quiet, with his performances getting better each time he steps out on the pitch, I felt it was finally time to dish the dirt on my latest French love affair.
For avid watchers of Ligue 1, his name should already send shivers down your spine, especially given his near permanent fixture in the highly competitive PSG squad this year. But for those still unsure of who he might be, this article aims to introduce you to the 19 year old midfielder who I believe (and have for some time now) will one day be a star of the modern game.
Love at First Sight
Like any good love story, I must first take you back to when our eyes first met, figuratively speaking of course. I first noticed him when stumbling upon an U18s international match on Eurosport and although I would not wish to submit even my archest rival to the mind numbingly awful coverage that was on offer, the torment my ears endured that day was a small price to pay for the majestic midfield display I saw unfold in front of me.
A lover of Robert Pires and many other Arsenal associated compatriots, the French national team and its players have always drawn my wandering eyes and watching this match I realised nothing had changed. A tall, lean French midfielder, sporting the captain’s armband and a full head of luscious french locks to boot had succeeded in capturing my undivided attention. I decided straight away to keep an eye on him during the match, forcing myself to see beyond the amateurish camera angles offered up by Eurosport, and watch the way he played carefully. I was not disappointed.
I bore witness to a magisterial midfield performance, defined by his orchestration of each French forward move and punctuated by a a tenaciousness that was aggressive yet also oozed class and elegance. Although much more understated than the beginning of this article, whilst watching the game I took the time to take out my phone and put my neck on the line, confidently tweeting I had witnessed the birth of a new footballing star.
The phrase ‘wand of a left foot’ is thrown about all too frequently, however, in Rabiot’s case, it almost falls short in describing the ability he wields in that one limb alone. Spraying passes, both long and short, with infinite ease, Rabiot controlled the game and created an abundance of chances for his teammates. He appeared in all areas of the pitch, sometimes starting moves from in between his centre backs, whilst at other times arriving in the box just at the perfect moment, trying to wrap a neat little bow on a move he had no doubtably started just minutes before.
Watching Rabiot for the first time, no matter how poor his opposition may have in fact been, I knew I was watching someone special. Someone who already possessed exceptional talent, but even more frightening was his potential.
The Current Situation
Ever since that day, I’ve had my ear tuned to Rabiot’s progress and being proud of my self-professed ability to notice when someone has it, and when someone does not, I have never been shy in mentioning Rabiot on the side. Yet, on the 21st of February this year (which so happens to be my birthday), Rabiot scored a brace. A brace that not only confirmed to me the talent I long believed he possessed but also signalled that I should go public in my admiration for him, before someone else got the chance.
Rabiot opened the scoring that day, curling the ball sumptuously into the top right hand corner after Ibrahimovic had cushioned the ball to him on the edge of the box. His second goal of the game was far less spectacular, but after good work from the eternal wonderkid Javier Pastore, Rabiot broke free in the box, tapping in the Argentine’s low cross with ease from 6 yards out.
At the tender age of 19, as well as being surrounded by a group of players brought together by a bottomless pit of money, consistent appearances are few and relatively far between for this young frenchman. However his 750 minutes this season, and his performances during that time, suggest that this modest figure could be well on the way to increasing rather rapidly in the near future and we should get used to seeing his name amongst the plethora of superstars on show at the Parc de Prince.
The Next *enter current world class midfielder’s name here*
I decided to finish this article by talking about who I think Rabiot is most like, or at least could be like in the future. The reason I say could be like is due to the contrast between where and how he currently plays and what I think he is capable of doing in the future.
When finally deciding on a name to jinx Rabiot’s talent with, I decided that Cesc Fabregas was a fitting candidate. Despite their completely different physical stature, they both share uncanny similarities between their mentality and approach to the game, and it is these similarities that warranted such a conclusion to be drawn.
Usually playing at the base of PSG’s midfield trio when selected, the deep lying role he fulfils for his club is a merely a drop in the ocean in terms of his footballing capabilities. The differing nature of the two goals I singled out earlier shows his diversity, as well as underpinning his potential to be a complete midfielder in the future. It also reflects the omnipresence players like he and Fabregas seem to have on the football pitch. Both players contribute to both defensive and attacking phases of play, and do so very effectively.
Whilst some might say Fabregas now focusses his efforts much further forward, his passing ability, vision and intelligence on the pitch is something that made him the lynchpin of Arsenal’s midfield for many years. It is this Fabregas I see in Rabiot. The Fabregas that managed to combine beauty and the beast, a ruthless tenacity with unnerving poise and grace. The Fabregas that could turn up anywhere on the pitch and do something magical, whether with the ball at his own feet, or at the feet of others; whether from the edge of his own box, or inside the opposition’s.
Rabiot has the attitude, ability and potential to do all those things, and I truly believe he will show it to the footballing world, sooner rather than later. My only fear is that due to the class of PSG’s midfield, and their emphasis on a defensively solid midfield unit, Rabiot’s development could not only be stunted by a lack of game time but also due to a mismanagement of his talents. Although he could quite possibly become one of the best holding midfielders, transforming himself into a Javi Martinez or even Matic like player, I believe that his talents are far more suited to having an influence on all areas of the pitch.
He may not be small like so many of the pocket sized Spaniards we are mesmerised by week in, week out, but Rabiot certainly has the qualities to follow in their tiny footsteps and make his own mark on the footballing world, perhaps an even greater one (if it were based on shoe size alone, he’d already have it in the bag).
Jump on the bandwagon now before it’s too late, and fall in love with him, just as I did all that time ago.
Here’s some material to help you on your way.