Le50 2016: Rémi Walter – OGC Nice
At just twenty years old, Rémi Walter is already a fairly experienced footballer at first-team level. Having made his debut in 2013 with Nancy after he progressed through the club’s youth ranks, the local boy went on to make over 75 first-team appearances in a short period of over just three years at the club. So when Claude Puel’s Nice moved for the defensively-minded midfielder in January 2016, the club’s directors knew that they were signing a player who would be more than equipped to make the step up to Ligue 1. Since joining Le Gym, Walter has already made 11 Ligue 1 appearances and he continues to be one of the first names on the France U21s team sheet.
Walter’s performances at Nancy were marked by a notable sense of tactical discipline for a holding midfielder of his age, particularly during the 2014-2015 season in which Pablo Correa used him in 31 matches. Usually, holding midfielders playing in a combative role can rack up bookings – ask Marco Verratti – so it is a testament to the youngster that he was only awarded one yellow card in the whole of last term.
Walter’s composed presence in the Nancy midfield has certainly endeared him to France U21 coach Pierre Mankowski who handed Walter his debut in this age category in March 2015, during an impressive French victory against Estonia.
Some analysts continue to be sceptical about Walter’s inclusion in the French youth international set-up when other promising midfielders such as Seko Fofana have been consistently left out of Mankowski’s squad. However, supporters will point to the fact that he has performed very well when he has been included. With his gifted left-foot, Walter serves the role as a dynamic link-up player between the French defence and attack, and the composure he shows on the ball was notable in his most recent appearance for the national team against Scotland in March.
Walter’s impressive performances between 2014 and 2015 not only managed to attract attention from selectors in the national team, they also attracted attention from Ligue 1 recruiters, as clubs such as Marseille showed interest. FC Nantes made a move for the youngster in August, and Walter made no attempt to hide his desire to leave Nancy for Ligue 1 football, making him an unpopular figure with Pablo Correa. When the move to Nantes fell apart, he suddenly found himself further down the pecking order. Youssef Ait Bennasser, capitalised on the opportunity to replace Walter in the starting line-up, and he has since forged a solid holding midfield partnership with Benoit Pedretti. A January move to Nice then provided Walter with the perfect get-out plan.
The ambition of the Essey-lès-Nancy native now should be to attempt to force his way into Claude Puel’s starting line-up at Nice. Since impressing in his debut against Toulouse, in which he played a full 90 minutes, Walter has mostly been used as a substitute, but he has impressed fans with his coolness when in possession and his discipline when tackling.
However, he does lack the physical presence that many modern holding midfielders possess and he may need to become a bit more forceful in his tackling if he wishes to cement his name in the starting line-up.
He may also wish to develop more confidence in the final third, as goalscoring hasn’t come naturally in his career so far. However, all in all, Walter’s career appears to be following a successful upwards trend and when one looks at what he has achieved since his debut, it’s exciting to think what he may achieve in the years to come.