Since Sochaux’s unprecedented success last season which saw them finish fifth Ryad Boudebouz has become one of the most exciting young prospects in French football. This has led to the 22-year old French-born Algerian international being linked with a number of top European clubs. He is an exceptionally talented midfielder who mostly plays on the wing.
This season has been one of strife for his club and it was the Algerian’s spectacular volley against Marseille that secured their Ligue 1 status for next season. However, that may well be his last action for Les Lionceaux as he is expected to move on this summer. Linked with a move to Liverpool last summer, this off-season is expected to be one of change for the side from the Doubs with the Algerian expected to be amongst the first names out of the door.
Although he primarily plays on the wing, the youngster can also play centrally and has experience in all attacking positions across the midfield. A fast, tricky and immensely skilful player, in their run to a fantastic fifth place finish Boudebouz struck up a strong rapport with last season’s leading assist provider Marvin Martin, serial goal scorer Brown Ideye and midfield maestro Nicolas Maurice-Belay to fire Sochaux to success.
However, with Ideye, Maurice-Belay and manager Francis Gillot gone and Martin and Modibo Maïga seemingly with their eyes on the exit since last summer, Sochaux plummeted to the foot of the table under new manager Mehmed Baždarević’s short-lived reign. With the difficult mission of avoiding the drop achieved Boudebouz might now be casting a few glances towards the exit too, though few would argue that he has not merited the opportunity to test himself at a higher level.
Together last season Boudebouz and Martin helped contribute towards les Lionceaux’s exciting, flowing brand of attacking football and although he was not prolific, the Algerian scored several memorable goals last season that helped his club secure European football for the first time since 2007. This season it has been a different story.
Although the side rediscovered a bit of form under Éric Hély, they still spent the majority of the campaign mired in the bottom three running the risk of losing a raft of talented youngsters for knock-down prices this summer with a stint in Ligue 2 beckoning. The squad rallied though and eventually overcame the dreaded drop thanks to some late season form and important contributions from some of its key members.
Boudebouz is still one of the team’s main contributors with six goals and six assists in 36 league appearances but when compared to last season’s eight goals and seven assists in 38 league appearances, the stats tell their own story. The rest of the team have not been pulling their weight. This season should have been one of development and fulfilling last season’s vast potential and although his stock has not fallen in terms of his reputation, his price tag will have been dramatically cut.
The youngster has at times had to shoulder the entire weight of the Montbéliard outfit by himself. Whilst others like Martin and Maïga have been losing their heads, Boudebouz has kept going and tried to drag his team out of danger but despite his best efforts the poisonous atmosphere that engulfed the Stade Auguste-Bonal this season almost undid all of his hard work. With a summer of rebuilding already underway after the announcement that long-serving goalkeeper and talisman Teddy Richert will be leaving the club after over a decade of loyal service, Coach Hély will need to construct a new side devoid of many of their most talented recent academy graduates.
Boudebouz will be one of those that makes way but his exit will likely help fund a new-look Sochaux side and in addition to the substantial fee that midfield cohort Marvin Martin will no doubt attract, Hély will be grateful for Boudebouz’s commitment to the club that raised him.
Liverpool look likely to come calling again but there will be no shortage of takers for the talented Algerian. Paris Saint-Germain in an effort to bridge the market to Ligue 1’s North African fans have been credited with a long-standing interest and a number of other Premier League sides have also taken notice of his possible availability.
A stay in France looks more likely though and in terms of a natural fit, he could be an ideal replacement for outgoing Lille maestro Eden Hazard. What price Boudebouz and teammate Martin both lining up at the Grand Stade Lille Métropole as Lille players next year? The club will be looking for two attacking players (Joe Cole also looking set to leave the club) of outstanding value, familiarity with Ligue 1 and more particularly, Lille’s fluid passing style so don’t bet against it.