Who is Marcus Thuram? The son of France legend Lilian is Europe’s best dribbler this season

Lilian Thuram was a lot of things: one of the finest right-backs of all-time, France’s most-capped player, an activist off the field and a World Cup winner on it.

What he was not – and he would be the first to admit this – was a fleet-footed, direct runner who felt entirely comfortable with the ball between his feet bursting at opposition defences.

Yes, he was capable of cutting inside from the flank and producing the odd spectacular strike (see World Cup semi-final versus Croatia in 1998), but that was not what his game was about.

Somewhere along the line, though, it is those creative qualities in the final third which have been passed from one generation of Thurams to the next.

That should perhaps come as no surprise in an era which is seeing the offspring of several famous faces following in the footsteps of some rather illustrious father figures.

Justin Kluivert is now at Roma and being backed to tread the same path as dad Patrick to Barcelona, while Timothy Weah is showing the kind of promise at Paris Saint-Germain which could one day see him occupy a similar global standing to AC Milan legend George.

It is, however, elsewhere in Ligue 1 that Thuram Junior is making his mark.

Marcus Thuram has been a regular on a senior stage for some years now, with a man born in Italy during Lilian’s time at Parma looking to flourish in the more natural surrounds of French football.

It could be that he passes the 100-appearance mark at club level this season, with a second campaign having been opened at Guingamp – with a debut stint among the elite having delivered 34 appearances following a switch from Sochaux.

Marcus Thuram run away bling

Thuram is happy to be moving slowly through the gears , with the bright lights surrounding Kluivert and Weah having largely been avoided up until this point.

“It was my dad who told me to run away from the bling-bling!” he told L’Equipe on his decision to link up with Sochaux at the age of 15, with there no desire on his part to use his surname as a bargaining chip in search of a grander stage.

A more considered approach to career development has delivered rich rewards.

He may not be chasing down major honours like his father did at Monaco, Parma, Juventus and Barcelona, but there is plenty of time for that.

Thuram is seeing regular minutes, which are a priceless commodity at this stage of his career, and has already represented France at every youth level up to U20 – with there the promise that a first senior outing could arrive at some stage as he seeks to eat away at his dad’s 142-cap haul.

Forcing his way into a World Cup-winning side will be no easy task, particularly when the abundance of attacking riches available to Les Bleus is taken into account.

He has, however, opened his goal account for the current campaign and taken in a memorable outing against legendary Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon – with the 40-year-old PSG star a former Parma colleague of his father.

Cartoon Buffon, Thuram and Weah

Thomas Tuchel told reporters after that contest: “Ligue 1 is a very tough championship physically, with very strong players, like Guingamp’s Marcus Thuram, who runs fast, is strong, dribbles well and is good in the air.”

Thuram feels perfectly at home in his current company, with every obstacle put in front of him having been cleared by a considerable stride.

He has said: “If I go into a stadium where people don’t like me, it makes me want to do more. When the fans insult me, it excites me. Given my name, it’s normal I’m a target. I wear it proudly and I don’t feel pressure because of it.”

There has certainly been no sign of nerves this season.

Thuram, having taken the decision to go chasing goals rather than focus his attention on keeping them out, is showing himself to be one of the most eye-catching performers in European football.

Fans want to worship players that can get them off their seat, and Guingamp appear to have found a man capable of doing just that.

Through the opening month or so of the 2018-19 campaign, no player across Europe’s top five leagues has completed more dribbles than Thuram – not Lionel Messi, not Eden Hazard, not Neymar, not anybody.

Player Dribbles completed Attempted Success %
Marcus Thuram 24 37 64.86
Lionel Messi 23 32 71.88
Allan Saint-Maximin 22 53 41.51
Eden Hazard 20 37 54.05
Max Gradel 17 40 42.5
Naim Sliti 16 29 55.17
Adama Traore 16 21 76.19
Jeff Reine-Adelaide 15 31 48.39
Ibrahim Sangare 15 20 75
Neymar 14 27 51.85

He is currently attempting just over six adventurous slaloms per outing, with four of those taking him to his desired destination or providing a team-mate with the chance to take over and build on his impressive groundwork.

To be outshining global superstars in such stakes is mightily impressive, but again should not come as a massive shock.

Back when he was a starry-eyed youngster following his father to training at Barcelona, Thuram inherited a pair of boots from a rather special someone.

He told this tale to AFP : “I was carefree at the time, probably about 10, and he was 20. His boots were too small for me, so I gave them to a friend. He must have them!”

Who was he talking about?

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None other than five-time Ballon d’Or winner and record-breaker extraordinaire, Senor Messi.

He may not have been able to fill those boots, as he quickly grew to tower over a diminutive Argentine, but he is showing himself to be worthy of them and continues to make his dad proud.

And if he can maintain his current upward career curve, then Thuram part II promises to end up being just as exciting as the original.

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‘England have got into his head’ – Given hits out at Southgate over Rice pursuit

Former Ireland international goalkeeper Shay Given has criticised Gareth Southgate and the England managerial staff for getting into the head of teenage defender Declan Rice.

Capped three times for Ireland, the 19-year-old West Ham player is not yet tied to the country after only featuring in friendlies.

Rice, who was born in Surrey and qualifies for Ireland due to his grandparents, has impressed for the Hammers this term after moving into a defensive midfield role.

Martin O’Neill had hoped that he would feature in the Nations League match against Wales earlier this season, but he pulled out of the squad.

Given, meanwhile, is angry with the role he thinks the England staff played in the decision.

“He’s played three games for Ireland but I think Gareth Southgate or someone from England has got into his head,” he complained to TalkSport.

“I think once you pull on the senior jersey for your country that should be it – your colours nailed to the mast and you should play.

“But the rules are not tied down to that.

“It’s a big decision, he’s a young man and I’m sure a lot of people would be in his ear about playing for England.

“But we would love him to play for Ireland, of course we would.”

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When it was suggested that assistant boss Roy Keane might have scared the youngster away, Given replied: “When Roy says something it’s big news and the media jump all over it, that’s the problem, but no, I don’t think Declan Rice is scared of anybody.”

Rice has played three times for West Ham in the Premier League this season, including their recent victory over Everton and a scoreless draw against Chelsea on Sunday.

With Ireland set to play Denmark and Wales in the Nations League in October, the picture of his international future is likely to become clearer over the coming weeks.

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‘Wow! What a manager he is’ – Klopp hails Sarri after incredible Chelsea start

Jurgen Klopp has declared himself a Maurizio Sarri fan ahead of Liverpool’s double-header against Chelsea.

Liverpool host the Blues at Anfield in the third round of the EFL Cup on Wednesday before at top-of-the-table Premier League clash at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Chelsea are only two points behind Klopp’s side, having lost their own 100 per cent record with a 0-0 draw at West Ham last weekend – after which Sarri said his team would take a year to reach Liverpool’s level .

Nevertheless, the former Napoli boss has overseen an impressive transformation in the team’s playing style after succeeding Antonio Conte, much to Klopp’s admiration.

“The biggest change I ever saw in such a short space of time, wow,” he told a news conference. “The style is completely different. What a manager he is, to be honest.

“I’m pretty much a supporter of his since I saw [his teams] at Napoli. Outstanding football, and now doing it in a very interrupted pre-season [due to the World Cup].

“Eden [Hazard] was not there, [Olivier] Giroud, [N’Golo] Kante. Starting the season and you see immediately the impact? All my respect. It’s really good to watch. Good job so far.”

As such, Klopp has no doubt that Chelsea can mount a sustained challenge for Manchester City’s title.

“People were always talking about City being clear and completely forgot Chelsea,” he said.

“This team is really experienced. It won the title before, 80 per cent [of the players] won it twice, and they know how it works. That’s a really strong football team.”

Liverpool have done much to underline their pre-season tip as the main rivals to Pep Guardiola’s champions, but Klopp is keen to distance his improved squad from talk of a challenge on four fronts following the impressive opening win over Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

“I’m not sure if that’s possible, to be honest. There was never a team that won all four, right? For different reasons,” he added.

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“I think the FA and Premier League hope that nobody goes through in all competitions, because they have no idea how to deal with it! Because then you have not enough days.

“I remember my first year here, if we would have won against West Ham [in the FA Cup] maybe we would have played Monday-Wednesday-Friday or something like that? Very funny!

“It’s not about the other three competitions tomorrow night. It’s one competition, not four. That’s how we will take it, with all concentration, with all focus, with all intensity [for a] normal game.”

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Box-office Gervinho is Parma’s perfect mascot


COMMENT    By Solace Chukwu     Follow on Twitter
 


The two strongest stereotypes about Italian football: its emphasis on tactics, and the fearsomeness of its defenders, really should not allow for a player like Gervinho to flourish. Yet, in his second spell in Serie A, he is threatening to rip it up in much the same way as he did first time around.

The Ivory Coast international, whose previous spell in Italy saw him terrorize defences while with Roma, is now the wrong side of 30, and is in rather more modest company with Parma. It would appear, however, that neither age nor a forgettable spell in China have robbed him of his jinking elusiveness.

However, he is as difficult for opponents to grasp as he is for the fans, and with time, it quickly becomes clear that his flair can be a double-edged sword.

No one knows what Gervinho will do with the ball…least of Gervinho himself.

Gervinho

In spite of this infuriating quality, he was actually a moderate success in his three-year stint at Roma. His debut season, in particular, was quite spectacular.

He contributed directly to 24 goals for the Giallorossi (12 goals and 12 assists) in a season that saw them finish second: well behind Juventus, but a whopping seven points ahead of third-placed Napoli.

If anything, he may have hit stride too quickly.

The link-up with Rudi Garcia, under whom he first caught the eye at Lille, was electric until it ceased to be. Things quickly unraveled for the French manager in Rome: whether as a cause or as an effect (or both) of Gervinho’s drop-off.

Unable to push on, or even hit the same heights subsequently, he was surprisingly sold to Chinese Super League side Hebei China Fortune at age 28.Gervinho Parma Cagliari

His second coming mirrors his first rather keenly, as he has once again caught fire instantly. His influence on returning Parma has been tremendous; even at 31, there are few who can carry the ball quite like Gervinho in full flow.

The upshot of this is that the Ivorian is the ultimate confidence player, and so requires as much a whisperer as he does a coach. Is it any surprise then that he is thriving at Parma, a team for whom he can be the star, the centre-piece? Probably not.

Gervinho | 2018-19 Serie A stats

In fact, playing for an underdog arguably suits him better. Whereas his eclectic decision-making and mercurial application would quickly frustrate at a bigger club, it is the spark needed to transform a more modest one.

His coast to coast run at the weekend against Cagliari, a spin on the classic George Weah goal for AC Milan in 1996, was certainly jaw-dropping.

It was even, whisper it quietly, better – what goal, after all, isn’t improved by the aid of the woodwork? – but it is tempting to wonder if he might have felt under pressure to be more selfless had he been playing at a more illustrious club.

Gervinho ParmaHe certainly could have passed the ball at multiple points during that run. He probably should have, logically. Yet, to do so would have betrayed the very essence of Gervinho, the free spirit.

Parma under Roberto D’Aversa are solid enough, and have a frontman with tremendous movement and intelligence in Roberto Inglese. However, all the movement in the world would be useless if not exploited: with Gervinho given the freedom to come in off the flank and drift into the space as it opens up, the Gialloblu are a dangerous prospect, as Inter can attest.

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There simply is no telling what Parma can or will do.

Just right now, they are inside the top half, have won as many as they have lost, and have conceded almost as many as they have scored. It has been a tortuous route back to the top table of Italian football for one of the country’s historic sides, after a sojourn in the wilderness.

In more ways than one, they have the perfect mascot in Gervinho, a man who seems keen to prove that this is the level at which he belongs. For better or worse.

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Former Man Utd striker Rossi facing potential drugs ban

Former Manchester United striker Giuseppe Rossi is set to face a hearing with Italy’s anti-doping agency, Nado Italia, next month after failing a drug test.

Rossi, 31, tested positive for dorzolamyde, a drug that can usually be found in anti-glaucoma medication, following the Serie A clash between Genoa and Beneveto on May 12.

A one-year ban has been suggested for the attacker, who has reportedly denied ever taking eye drops, which is how this drug is usually administered.

The trial is scheduled for October 1 and until then the ex-Italy international striker – who is now a free agent – has not been suspended.

New-Jersey-born Rossi began his career at Old Trafford, where he played 14 times after coming through the youth system, scoring one goal.

From there, he spent time on loan at Newcastle and Parma before eventually securing a permanent move to Villarreal, where he spent six years. Fiorentina swooped for him in 2013 but injuries meant that he struggled to make an impression in Florence, despite scoring an impressive 19 times in 42 matches, and loan moves to Levante and Celta Vigo followed.

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After being released by the Viola, he ended up with Genoa, signing as a free agent on December 4 last season. At the end of the campaign, though, he was released.

He has played 30 times for Italy and scored seven goals, winning his last cap prior to World Cup 2014.

Rossi’s professional life has been punctuated regularly by serious injury, which has significantly affected what was once tipped to be a stellar career.

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