Career choices are never easy. Ask Faouzi Ghoulam.
At the vulnerable age of 21, the French-Algerian fullback has had to make several. If that isn’t overwhelming enough, factor in that most of his choices have been contested, pressured, and ridiculed by millions across continents.
And yet, Ghoulam has managed to churn out one sturdy performance after another. His consistent output is proof of mental strength and ability.
Said mental strength may have been genetically relayed, as Faouzi is the proud grandson of an Algerian ‘Mujahid’ (rebel in 1962 war of independence).
And yet it’s his familial legacy that added insult to injury for 35 million Algerians who were banking on his allegiance in the international arena.
Ghoulam was summoned to an Algerian U23 camp, which he declined because of club commitments. His rejection was confusing to the North Africans because their youth coach, Azzedine Ait-Djoudi, claimed that it was Ghoulam who had first approached Algeria for an opportunity.
Nothing was made of the snub until a few months later. In France Football magazine, Ghoulam made the following statements:
Algeria is my country of origin. I go often. But my father always told me I had to make a decision based on sport. I feel French and want to play for France*
Most would have made peace with that statement and cut their premature losses, but Ghoulam went on to allegedly say (regarding French-Algerians who play for Algeria)
We should be honest. A lot of them (bi-nationals) would have liked to play for France, but they didn’t have the ability…*
*Quotes can be found here
Needless to say the comments were not taken well in Algeria. Most didn’t mind that Ghoulam had set his sights on France. They were unhappy about the latter part of his statement.
It was especially unfair to players like Ryad Boudebouz, Sofiane Feghouli, Anthar Yahia and (Ghoulam’s inspiration) Nadir Belhadj-all of which had made the switch while good enough to play for both selections.
It’s rare that a young fullback be primarily praised for defensive attributes. But Ghoulam is more comfortable sitting back, maintaining shape and defending, than attacking. Ghoulam is strong in the slide tackle and is rarely ever dribbled past.
When asked about his playing style, Ghoulam likes to draw himself out as a Patrice Evra/Nadir Belhadj hybrid.But his upright stance, knack for the safe pass, and defensive tendencies remind me more of Eric Abidal.
Faouzi Ghoulam is, also, the only player I’ve ever seen throw a football farther than Rory Delap.
Coming through club ranks meant that Faouzi Ghoulam garnered a small advantage when ready to make the step up. Yet he was often overshadowed by the likes of Idriss Saadi, Kurt Zouma, Loris Nery and Jessim Mahaya in the reserves. Regardless, he was finally offered his first professional contract towards the end of last season.
In a matter of days he had made his debut vs. Lorient, and by the fortnight Ghoulam had made the left flank his own. The Franco-Algerian hasn’t looked back since, but is now stuck on a youth contract which sees him earn a meagre 5 000 Euros per month.
(Fun Fact: In 2 hours and 20+ minutes, Samuel Eto’o makes what Faouzi Ghoulam does in one month. )
Both Saint-Etienne and Ghoulam have tried to reconcile the contract situation, but the conspicuous delay in extension has attracted potential suitors looking for a bargain. Among Ghoulam’s admirers are Stuttgart, Napoli and Dortmund. But the two clubs who have shown the most interest are Valencia and Roma.
He is worth anywhere from 3-5 million and is a sure buy for any ‘subtop’ club.
We made a small video capturing Ghoulam’s playing style. Give it a watch. Enjoy