Le50 2016: Valentin Rongier – FC Nantes
When the ball fell to Valentin Rongier around 25 yards out during Nantes’ 3-0 win over Troyes in mid-October, what proceeded had the air of something special. As the ball rolled towards him Rongier didn’t think – he didn’t even take a touch. He hit the ball first time and could have hardly hit it more sweetly. It rocketed into the top corner and it felt at that moment that Rongier had truly announced himself.
At that stage the 21-year-old had featured in every Ligue 1 game for Nantes, completing the full 90 minutes in all but three of their games. However, this goal felt like confirmation that Rongier had become a permanent member of the Nantes midfield after breaking into the team towards the end of last season.
Just a week later it all went wrong when Rongier went down clutching his knee away at Caen. Everyone in the ground knew immediately that something was wrong and there was a sombre atmosphere as the youngster was stretchered off. It was later confirmed that he had ruptured the cruciate ligaments in his knee.
It was a massive blow for such a promising player but Rongier’s mindset has remained positive throughout, with determined updates throughout his recovery. He even has appeared on commentary duty during Nantes games a few times – an unsurprising act from a player who has been with the club for such a long time.
Then in January, Nantes posted the video that everyone wanted to see: Rongier back in training. Since then he has been working to build up his fitness and the strength in his knee and the club is hopeful that he may be able to make an appearance before the end of the season.
The worry with such a serious injury is how the player will recover but Rongier has time on his side to take it easy with his progress, rather than rushing back. The other positive for Rongier is that he has the full backing of his club, with Nantes confirming in March that the midfielder had signed a new contract that lasts until 2020.
Rongier revealed during the announcement that it was the club that came to him, showing their faith in him. “It gives me great pleasure. I am injured and the club came to me to extend my contract – it’s a great gesture and a mark of confidence.”
Manager Michel Der Zakarian said “the injury has held Valentin back this season but he is a player for the future. His contract extension is great news.”
It’s evident that Nantes still see Rongier as the future of their team and it’s easy to see why. Rongier is a complete midfielder: he’s strong in the tackle, a clever passer of the ball and, as demonstrated by his goal, he has great technique as well. Relatively short, his size means he isn’t great in the air but aside from that he doesn’t have many weaknesses.
At his age, what he needs now is for the club to be patient with him and allow the player to make a full recovery. If he can make a few appearances off the bench in the final few matches of the season he will have a good basis for pre-season and hopefully he will be able to return to full fitness for the start of next season. If he can get a full season under his belt one can expect him to be on the move to bigger things before too long.