Steve Mounié – from Montpellier to Huddersfield?
Montpellier have a tradition of selling their two best players every summer, so with a variety of clubs circling around Ryad Boudebouz, the news that Steve Mounié is being heavily linked with newly-promoted Huddersfield isn’t that surprising.
Last season was a tricky proposition for the 2012 champions, who flirted with relegation, changed managers a(nother) couple of times, and ended up in fifteenth. Key to their survival was 22-year-old centre forward Mounié, who scored fourteen in the league as Montpellier racked up 48 league goals, the best record outside the top six.
A youth-team product, Mounié was sent out on loan to nearby mates Nimes in Ligue 2 for the 2015/16 season, where he scored 11 league goals and added five assists to help them overcome a starting eight-point points deduction to finish fourteenth – which would have been eighth without the deduction – and have the sixth-best attack.
His proudest league moment from that loan stint was probably his hat-trick against Clermont in a frankly chaotic match that ended 6-2 for the Crocodiles.
This was also the period in which he was first called up to the Benin national team; his first appearance was as substitute as the Squirrels were knocked out of World Cup qualifying by Burkina Faso 2-3 on aggregate, his second happier – scoring in a 2-1 away win against South Sudan in AFCON qualifying.
After that successful loan, Mounié was brought back to Montpellier to play a key part in the 2016/17 Ligue 1 season. He had to step up from the get-go as the previous season’s strikers went back to their parent club (Moustapha Yatabare), got injured and were better on the wing anyway (Casimir Ninga), and turned 34 (Souleymane Camara). He didn’t disappoint.
Montpellier’s second-most used player after midfielder Ellyes Skhiri (there were, again, goalkeeping ‘issues’ at the Mosson) played in 38 matches, scoring 14, assisting 3. Playing nearly all those matches as centre forward, Mounié showed a variety of strengths; yes, he’s big and good in the air, but look at the placement of his headers. Smart. Yes, there’s tap-ins, but look at how many are hit while moving at speed, and while surrounded by a crowd. Mounié isn’t about to have a meaningless shot from distance; he gets himself into dangerous situations and has the strength to hold off defenders, or the speed to escape them. He’s also got a good decision-making head on him, as the assists show – ready to stick a cross in if drawn out of position, or have a little one-two in the area.
If Mounié’s next destination is Huddersfield, the usual questions will be asked: can he cut it in the more physical Premier League? Well, probably. He knocked over a lot of people in Ligue 1 (the second yellow against Caen was…a second yellow) and doesn’t look likely to give up any time soon; if you want to find out, match tickets are available from Football Ticket Pad.
Also – does he have what it takes to play in a newly promoted team, who are going to have a tough season? Again, probably. Nimes started 2015/16 looking nailed on for the drop given their points deduction but clawed themselves inexorably out of that, slowly but surely getting a foothold back in safety. Then there was Montpellier’s 2016/17 season which saw a midway change of manager and a lot of nervy moments. Mounié is used to being in stressful situations and just getting on with it and doing his thing.
The rumoured fee of €13m is back to the decent money that Montpellier try to get for their best players (last summer being a frustrating aberration as Bryan Dabo and Jonas Martin both left for very little) but also seems very good business for Huddersfield. While Mounié might only have two senior seasons under his belt, those were both difficult situations that he managed with maturity.
Mo Mounié? No Problems.