Arguably, its Joey Barton who is the more high profile transfer in this QPR-OM switch, but going in the other direction is the highly rated Stephane M’Bia. Everyone knows a lot about and has an opinion about Barton, but the Cameroonian is perhaps more of an unknown to a lot of people. So to EPL fans, especially those of QPR who might be wondering what sort of player they have acquired, hopefully this article will answer a few questions.
There have been a lot of articles saying that M’Bia is ‘OM through and through’ In some ways, this cant be denied, he does have a special affiliation with the club. Indeed by his own admission he has said that ‘OM will always be in his heart’ However, it must be remembered that the club where he actually made his name initially was Rennes. It was the Bretons who in 2003 signed him from Cameroonian club Kadji Sports Academy when he was just 17 years of age. After a couple of years playing for the reserves he made his debut in the 2004/5 season, and from that moment onwards he’d be a mainstay in the side.
In total, he spent 4 complete seasons as a regular in the Rennes XI. It was during this period that he was to earn a reputation as being one of the best defensive midfielders in Ligue 1. In many ways it was a surprise that Rennes managed to hang on to him for so long. Inevitably, transferring to a bigger club was to eventually happen and it occurred in summer 2009. Marseille paid close to £11 million for his services, perhaps a little over the odds but this was a time when OM were paying out some silly money on transfers. Nevertheless, this sort of fee did show how highly some people regarded him. On the face of it he was a 23 year old who was potentially about to enter the prime of his career.
If it was at Rennes was where he became noticed, it was at OM where he became more high profile and known throughout Europe. In terms of timing, he got it spot on by joining OM at this particular moment. In his first season he won the Ligue 1 and Coupe de la Ligue double. In his next campaign at OM, a 2nd place finish in addition to another Coupe de La Ligue triumph was to follow. Last season wasn’t quite so good for OM but again they won a Coupe de la Ligue. Throw into the mixer a couple of Trophee des Champions triumphs and exposure to Champions League football in each of the previous 3 seasons. Overall, it must be said that he has enjoyed a fruitful period at OM.
M’Bia’s main and primary position is as a defensive midfielder. Its in this spot where he is most effective. Strong physically, he is very hard to break down and will always give a commanding presence sitting in front of the defence. Its not just physically where he has strengths though, mentally he had proven to be one of the toughest warriors in Ligue 1. In addition, he is quite adept at playing in central defence, although this isn’t his preferred role. When Didier Deschamps was in charge at OM, he wanted to mould M’Bia into a primary central defender. But the player himself said he was unhappy about this, and indeed on the contrary wanted to become a more attack minded midfielder, targeting scoring more goals especially. The potential is definitely there that he could become more than just a defensive midfielder. Ideally in his own mind it seems he has visions of becoming a ‘box to box’ type player.
This is perhaps one of the few downsides to M’Bia. He is a very strong minded individual and is clearly someone who knows his own game well. If he believes he is better off in a certain position then he will always fight hard to play there. For example, he can play in central defence but sometimes looks moody and depressed in that position because he doesn’t enjoy it as much. The biggest negative factor surrounding him though is injuries Every season he seems to come down with some sort of problem. Amazingly he has never played more than 30 games in any season during his career! In fact, just once has he managed to play more than 27 times for a club during a single campaign.
He is a player who needs to be wrapped in cotton wool and QPR must take this into account when managing his workload. He is not the sort of player who can play constantly from weekend to midweek otherwise he will burn out. On the positive side, he is someone who usually recovers quickly, but it’d be stunned if he managed to get through any league season without missing at least a month of it through injury in total. Nevertheless, He definitely has the physical and mental qualities to succeed in the EPL and for £5 million QPR haven’t got themselves a bad deal. His is still only 26 years old and has matured greatly over the last few years. He has a lot of experience that he can bring to the table and he could potentially become a very valuable asset to the Londoners.
I’m sure I speak for all OM fans, (and Rennes fans too) by wishing him the very best of luck at QPR and to thank him for his services in Ligue 1 over the last 8 years.