Faiz Selemani: Niort Look to Third Division for Another Star
Chamois Niortais have had a tough start to their Ligue 2 campaign: after losing Yoann Barbet to Brentford and long-standing captain Mouhamadou Diaw to Auxerre in pre-season, the Poitou-Charentes side have gone five league matches without a win.
The woes of supporters and players were compounded last week when standout players Florian Martin and Kévin Malcuit left the club to join Sochaux and Saint-Etienne respectively. However, in a bid to put smiles back on the faces of supporters, the club made a deadline day swoop that could prove to be extremely influential, as one of French amateur football’s brightest prospects joined the club on a three-year deal.
His name is Faïz Selemani and he has joined Les Niortais from National side Marseille Consolat for a reported fee of around €80,000, becoming the first player to be transferred for a fixed priced sum in the third-division club’s history. Selemani has been signed as a direct replacement for the departing Malcuit, and Niort fans will be hoping that he will be able to replace his pace and versatility. The club were alerted to Selemani by ex-Chamois Niortais defender and current Consolat assistant manager Éric Chelle, and the right-back turned right-midfielder fits well within the parameters of Les Chamois’ recruitment policy.
With the guidance of club legend and current head scout Franck Azzopardi, Niort have in recent seasons successfully recruited players from the National who have then gone on to become successful players at Ligue 2 level. Kévin Malcuit from Fréjus Saint-Raphael is probably the most obvious example of this system in practice, but there are other notably successful examples.
Ivorian centre-forward Seydou Koné, who was the club’s top scorer last season, is one such example. Having joined the club from Istres, the attacker went on to score 15 goals in the league in his debut campaign. Paul Delecroix, Niort’s highly-rated goalkeeper, is another example. The 26-year-old stopper joined the club from Amiens after a short loan spell, and he has gone on to become a fans’ favourite at the Stade René-Gaillard thanks to his consistently high level of performances. Could the purchase of Selemani be a successful continuation of what has so far appeared to be a well thought-out recruitment policy?
The signs so far look good for the Niort support, as Selemani appears to be a like-for-like replacement for Malcuit. The 21-year-old began his footballing career at Olympique de Marseille, where he was used as a right-back within the club’s youth squad. However after leaving the club to join amateur side Côte-Bleue he was afforded the luxury of being allowed to play more offensive roles. Niort’s head coach Régis Brouard is believed to have singled the youngster out as a target since March, when the sign of Malcuit’s likely and eventual departure to Ligue 1 began to appear.
Selemani excelled in his four opening games of the season for Marseille Consolat, scoring three times in four matches and he currently remains the third division’s top scorer. In his penultimate match for the club, he demonstrated perfectly the key attributes he will bring to Brouard’s side i.e. some much needed pace, width and the ability to score.
He demonstrated these capacities when he scored his side’s opener in a 1-1 draw with Épinal SAS. After latching on to a through-ball from midfield, the right-winger burst through on goal with blistering pace before coolly lifting the ball over the goalkeeper with a delicate chip. Niort fans will be hoping to see much more of the same from their new number eight when he pulls on a blue shirt in Ligue 2.
When watching Selemani it becomes evident that he is not just a strong and quick runner, but that he also possesses good decision-making skills when picking out passes from the wing, and he shows good composure when going by opposition full-backs. Like Malcuit, he uses his defensive training to track back and win the ball for his side when the opposition take possession. He has also recently demonstrated his ability to score from distance, when he fired home a wonderful long-rage effort in his side’s 3-0 victory against Fréjus Saint-Raphael.
It is of course extremely early to be making bold predictions about Selemani’s potential, but according to the coaches who know him best, he offers plenty to be excited about. According to Osama Haroun, the right-sided player’s former coach at Côte-Bleue, Selemani even has the potential to become a future French international. This scenario may at the moment seem far-fetched, but should Selemani follow in Malcuit’s footsteps, he will be bound to catch the attention of bigger French clubs.
With his goals, pace and promise, this previously unknown third-division player’s name could well be worth remembering.