Ligue 1

Four-way Fight For Frenchman

Yohan Benalouane is in the news yet again; now linked with a move to West Ham, Sevilla, Rangers and, most acutely, Newcastle. Yup, always doing the rounds that kid, loose tongues are most definitely always ‘awagging’ about young Benalouane, literally never out the headlines… Nope, never heard of him either?

Well, let’s take a quick look at who this mysterious man really is, when we play… ‘Who are Yo(han)?’ (I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry, just do away with me now, take out a rusty spanner and swing liberally yet brutally)

A French central defender of Turkish descent, Benalouane has spent his entire career with current club Saint-Etienne in Ligue 1. Now 23-years-old, his real breakthrough came during the 2008/09 season, though he did make a handful of sporadic appearances the previous year. Progressing effectively, last year he duly established himself as an important first-team regular.

Certainly, he became an influential backbone in the midst of a difficult season for the French club. Indeed, Saint-Etienne battled it out at the wrong end of the table – finishing 17th – but Benalouane’s strength and robust approach proved vital; conceding substantially less goals than the teams in their immediate vicinity (both below and above). Thus, during a season in which goal scoring proved the real problem, Yohan came to the defensive fore.

With only one year remaining on this current deal, Saint-Etienne had hoped to secure a contract extension. However, it seems Benalouane is weighing up his options of advancement at an important juncture in his career. Hence, his club may well be tempted to cash in rather than lose a key asset for nothing next year.

As indicated, a plethora of clubs are reportedly circling for a cut-price deal. Rangers, Sevilla and West Ham are amongst the mob. However it does seem Newcastle are favourites and Chris Hughton currently most keen; particularly if Steven Taylor’s recent shoulder injury proves problematic.

Though still a little unrefined – requiring further tactical disciplining – at 6ft 1in, and a strong, imposing force with tenacious tackling ability, he could prove a useful addition.

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