Younes Belhanda, the next big thing from France


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Younes Belhanda of Montpellier (Reuters)

Rising star Younes Belhanda will play for Montpellier against Arsenal in the Champions League tonight and, ahead of the match at the Emirates, Euroscout runs the rule over the young playmaker.

Of course, the Gunners already know plenty about the 22-year-old's talents after he scored with a superb Panenka penalty when the two sides met on the opening matchday of this season's competition back in September.

That moment of brilliance from 12 yards prompted our reporter to hand him man-of-the-match honours, writing at the time: "He may have been on the losing side, but the Moroccan playmaker was a constant threat to Arsenal and his lovely penalty was arguably the stand-out moment of the game."

High praise indeed; and it doesn't stop there. Arsene Wenger is a huge fan of the player and the French tactician went on record before the season started to say he was well aware of the Avignon-born ace.

"Younes Belhanda, I know him well," Wenger wrote in his Eurosport blog. "He plays without any complexities, his real talent is dribbling, passing and he has good technique which can influence any game."

Wenger even went as far as to say: "I love this player."

And it's easy to see why on the evidence of last season and what we have seen so far this campaign.

After beginning his career in a defensive midfield role, Belhanda truly blossomed during the 2011-12 season when Montpellier coach Rene Girard opted to hand him the No. 10 shirt and play him in a more advanced position.

The move was an unqualified success, as a liberated Belhanda and Olivier Giroud - a player he will face off against in north London tonight - linked up to great effect, with Montpellier claiming the Ligue 1 title, largely thanks to Belhanda's 12 league goals and Giroud's 21.

In many respects, Belhanda is a classic No. 1o, a clever player who displays nice touches, has good vision and uses an abundant imagination. Clearly, he also has an eye for goal.

On the ball, he is delight to watch, while at the same time a nightmare for opposition defences to contain, so it came as no surprise when no less than Zinedine Zidane singled him out for praise during the previous campaign, saying he and Giroud were doing "extraordinary things" for the French club.

Yet, inevitably, he is not the complete player just yet. He is yet to fully shine for Morocco on the international stage - although Wenger puts that down to being played out of position - while sometimes he allows his temper to get the better of him.

But, at 22, time is very much on his side. An impressive performance at the Emirates should confirm his status as one of Europe's most talented up-and-coming young playmakers and will ensure heightened interest in his signature - not least from the side he will be playing against.


Pace: 7/10
Dribbling: 8/10
Passing: 8/10
Crossing: 6/10
Shooting: 8/10
Flair: 9/10
Work rate: 7/10
Strength: 6/10

Overall rating: 8/10
Potential rating: 9/10

Value: £15m

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Younes Belhanda player profile

Analysis of Belhanda's performance against Olympiacos in the Champions League on November 6.

Montpellier lost the game 3-1, but Belhanda scored a penalty to level things up on 67 minutes.

20' - Bedimo and Belhanda are on different wavelengths on the right flank. They both get caught up in each other's feet. Modesto comes across and sends Bedimo to the floor, giving away a free kick.

45' - Belhanda plays the corner short to Mounier. The two trade a number of passes on the touchline before the former's control lets him down and he gives away a throw-in.

50' - Charbonnier is now playing down the middle as Camara has moved out to the left. Camara attempts to get onto Belhanda's smart through ball but he can't quite get there and rolls out for a goal kick.

58' - Jourdren's long ball up field is flicked on by Belhanda. Mounier receives it on the left and fires in a cross-shot. There's nobody in support and the ball flies out for a goal kick.

60' - Belhanda's cross is far too deep and is cleared by Siovas. Saihi's first-time volley ricochets off the legs of Manolas and out for another corner.

67' - Belhanda scores from the spot. It's not the greatest penalty but there's enough pace on it to take it past Carrol who guessed the right way.

72' - Belhanda's set-piece from the right side of the pitch is met by Manolas who heads clear.

80' - Greco scores for the hosts after Belhanda mistimes his header as he looks to clear a corner at the front post. It falls to Greco 12 yards from goal who volleys into the back of the net.

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