World Cup winner Steven N’Zonzi was a big fish in a little pond when he played for Blackburn Rovers between 2009 and 2012.
Blackburn have caddied a few players into the starry lights of top-level European football, including FC Koln’s Anthony Modeste and Atletico Madrid’s Nikola Kalinic, and Steven N’Zonzi is no different.
The Frenchman arrived a relatively unknown prospect from Amiens SC on a four-year contract in June 2009.
The national media struggled to find much to say about the prospective Premier League player other than the fact he was a France youth international with just a single season worth of experience at senior level and 35 appearances to his name.
After just a season in England, however, his profile expanded exponentially – not that it was hard in the first place, we suppose – and he soon announced himself on the big stage as one of the leagues hidden gems.
A physically strong and tactically astute defensive midfielder, N’Zonzi helped guide his team towards 10th position in the Premier League – their best finish to date – and earned a well-deserved Player of the Season award.
Unfortunately, his second term in English football would prove fruitless.
Sam Allardyce, the man who recruited him, was immediately sacked by the much-loathed Venky’s London Limited group, who had bought the club that year, and replaced by Steve Keane. A controversial appointment since the Scot’s agent Jerome Anderson had overseen the Venky’s takeover in the preceding months.
The toxic environment off the pitch seeped into the squad’s performances on it, and after a disastrously poor run of form Blackburn Rovers were eventually relegated – despite the midfielders best efforts.
N’Zonzi was subsequently picked up by then-Premier League side Stoke City.
During his time at the Potters, the Frenchman really homed in on the talents that had earned him the plaudits through the years – skillsets that far outweighed, not literally, of course, the talents of pub footballer Charlie Adam and the rest of the drivel at Stoke
He handed in a transfer request not once but twice in an effort to force a move to club who could match his ambitions, and despite staying both times – for reasons unknown – he eventually got his big opportunity with a move to La Liga side Sevilla in 2015.
N’Zonzi excelled in his new environment adding a Europa League title to his collection as well as countless quality performances that drew credible comparisons with one of the game’s best Sergio Busquets (as per Goal).
Having won the World Cup with France last year, we expected something a little more…zesty than his move to Roma. Not that they are not a good side – because they are – it just feels like a bit of a sideways step in his career considering all the promise and earlier ambition he showed. Italy is a bit of a graveyard for those seeing out their careers – and N’Zonzi just is not one of those. Not yet anyway.
A parade of rumours have emerged as recently as February linking him with a return to the Premier League this summer with both Tottenham and Arsenal interested (Calcio Mercato).
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