Le50 2017 – Allan Saint-Maximin
Monaco and exciting young players seem to have gone hand in hand in recent seasons. Whilst the likes of Thomas Lemar, Benjamin Mendy, Tiemoue Bakayoko and a certain Kylian Mbappe have taken the plaudits, there’s a new wave of players who are either coming through the youth system or returning from loan spells. Allan Saint-Maximin is one such player who falls into the latter category.
Saint-Maximin grew up in the outskirts of Paris, playing for an array of local teams before being accepted into the acclaimed Clairefontaine academy. His time there was short-lived as he was dismissed from the centre for his part in a disciplinary matter. This though did not affect the youngster too much as only a few months later he joined the youth set-up at Saint-Etienne, who had been monitoring him for a few years.
After playing a starring role for the youth teams at Saint-Etienne, he eventually made his first team debut in August 2013. However over the course of that season and the one after, Saint-Maximin only made sporadic appearances for the club. This was in part due to injury but also perhaps to the defensive nature of Saint-Etienne’s style of play, something which was in complete contrast to Saint-Maximin’s furious and direct attacking spirit. Nevertheless, after signing a contract extension in February 2015, it came as some surprise that he was allowed to leave that summer as Monaco pounced for him.
His new club immediately sent him out on loan to Germany where he spent the season with Hannover. His time in the Bundesliga was perhaps not what the player nor Monaco hoped for. He struggled to hold down a regular starting role and a run-in with the law hardly helped matters when he was accused of presenting a fake driving licence after being involved in a crash with a tram, something his agent at the time denied.
It was with some scepticism therefore that he was sent out again on loan for the duration of the 2016/17 season as he joined Bastia. Whilst the team endured a poor season on and off the pitch, which ultimately resulted in relegation and numerous visits to the disciplinary board of the LFP, Saint-Maximin finished the season as one of few Bastia players able to hold their head a little higher.
In terms of his position, the player is at an advantage as he can play wide right, wide left or through the middle, however it was flying down the right wing for Bastia where he looked the most dangerous. There are few in the league with the kind of electric pace Saint-Maximin possesses and whilst his touch can often let him down, there is no denying the player’s confidence. When it all comes together it is a sight to behold, as his goal against Caen in January 2017 demonstrated. Picking up possession inside his own half, he flicked the ball beyond his man before a searing turn of pace sent him free, he then cut in from the right, and beat another two players before arrowing a low shot under the keeper and into the centre of the goal. A terrific goal that really made many sit up and take notice.
He’s still very much a work in progress, and one word to describe him would definitely be ‘raw’. Whilst the pace, confidence and talent is there, he still needs to become more polished and consistent. As well as an occasionally poor touch, he has been accused of not looking up when in possession, a criticism that Ousmane Dembele also previously received. If, like Dembele, he can take on board that criticism, work on it and improve, then he could really make a huge impression this coming season.
Returning to Monaco in the summer of 2017, Saint-Maximin has made it clear he expects playing time. Whilst he would wish that that is with Monaco, he seems unafraid at this point in his career to do whatever it takes to fulfil that desire to play. With Monaco currently undertaking another summer of transfer comings and goings, they would be very wise to work on fine-tuning Saint-Maximin and giving him the playing time he wants, because if they do, he could well become another player attracting the European heavyweights this time next year.