Rennes’ Jonathan Pitroipa: The German opinion

Rennes captured the signing of Hamburg winger Jonathan Pitroipa this week, and who better to tell us all about him than HSV and Bundesliga expert @dan_bu

After weeks of uncertainty and negotiations between the clubs, HSV’s Jonathan Pitroipa was finally allowed join Ligue 1 side Stade Rennais for a basic fee of about €3.5 million. After three years in Northern Germany it is a move from which all three parties involved should benefit in some way.

Pitroipa, a Burkinabé winger who plays mostly on the right wing, joined the “Rothosen” from SC Freiburg in the summer of 2008, where he left his “patron” Volker Finke behind, it was Finke who brought Pitroipa to Germany for a successful three week trial in 2004, after Wilfried Sanou, who already played for Freiburg at this time, recommended his fellow countryman to the manager.

Sanou and Pitroipa had already known each other for a while, before they finally teamed up again at Freiburg. They both started playing football at the “Planète Champion International“ football academy in the Burkinabé capital Ouagadougou. Sanou then left for Austrian club WSG Wattens in 2001. When he joined Freiburg in 2003, it did not take long for him to convince his new manager of the abilities of one of his close friends, Jonathan Pitroipa. Finke wasn’t convinced though; he had serious doubts over Pitroipa’s physical frailties.

These doubts quickly disappeared, after Pitroipa started to show his strengths in training. He was a bit too light, but he also had bags of pace, good technique and a certain kind of “flair” that you only see in very few players. A successful stay at Freiburg began and some great performances in the 2.Bundesliga earned him a move to Hamburg in 2008.

At HSV he never really fulfilled his full potential, although he showed it in individual games from time to time. A lack of consistency was the reason that he never became a regular starter too often he would come off the bench as an “impact player” using his pace against tired opposition later in the game.

Pitroipa wasn´t satisfied with this role and it didn´t really change under a few different managers. He often said that he did not feel that enough faith was put in him and his abilities from the coaches. Four managers came and left during his time at the Imtech Arena and the player always gave each one his best before finally deciding enough was enough. The move will allow him to play in a league in which his abilities may shine through more often and his performances could become more consistent. He also will be able to finally speak his native language again, he never really learnt German and therefore was a bit isolated in his private life.

The HSV fans will remember him as a winger with enormous pace and great dribbling skills, but also as a player who lacked consistency and often made the wrong decisions when under pressure on the pitch. “Pit” always looked to have the tools to score more goals for Hamburg (only scored six goals in 74 Bundesliga games for HSV), but he often missed great opportunities and seemed to be too hectic in front of the goal – probably another sign for his lack of self confidence in some situations.

Pitroipa seems to be very content with the move finally agreed now and I´m sure he will settle quickly in Rennes, the club shown their confidence in him, paying about €3.5 million for a player who has only one year left on his contract. In the right environment and under the right manager he will hopefully find some form. If French football suits him Rennes fans will get an exciting winger who has the ability to win games on his own, but a player who also needs to be trusted after weaker performances to finally find consistency at a club. Until now it unfortunately always was a very fine line with him, between great moves in one situation and poor decision making in the next.

The potential to become a top player is there without a doubt, but he needs to fulfil it soon. He will have a better chance doing that at Rennes, than at HSV and maybe this move will become his best decision since coming to Germany as an 18-year-old in 2004.

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