Rewind to the 17th November 2010 and England were facing France in an international friendly at Wembley. In what now seems ominous in the first place England handed debuts to the likes of Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and for some crazy reason Jay Bothroyd even made an appearance in the second half. In fact Carroll was perhaps the best player on show for England that night as Les Bleus tore into England with an almost joyful disdain.
Laurent Blanc’s side dominated from start to finish with slick one-touch passing dragging the experienced and inexperienced England players all over the pitch in a dishevelled nightmare. The end result was a 2-1 victory for the French; a scoreline that was made unfairly respectable by Peter Crouch’s late effort.
The likes of Florent Malouda, Mathieu Valbuena, Karim Benzema and in particular Samir Nasri were beyond assured in possession and made us toil for almost the entire fixture. Yet it was the performance of the two young men in the heart of France’s fluid midfield that really run the show.
Those players were Yann M’Vila and Yoann Gourcuff. The latter was just returning from a poor World Cup in South Africa and put in a performance that seemed to give his ‘next Zidane’ claim credence.
M’Vila on the other hand was fresh to this team; the Wembley fixture just his fifth cap. Playing in the important holding role he put in a performance that belied his age. Strong in the tackle and showing a magnificent range of passing he outclassed Steven Gerrard and Gareth Barry throughout. As for any aerial battles there was only one winner with M’Vila around.
This was the new dawn of French football. These two would be the saviours; controlling the middle of the park with such ease led to purring noises in the commentary booths above. Off the back of the disaster in South Africa and a loss to Belarus in Euros Qualifying finally it seemed Blanc had got the French clicking.
Fast forward to the 17th January 2013 and the same cannot be said. In that period much has happened for both players including huge offers from abroad and plaudits from far and wide. Yet more recently it has been a different rhetoric.
Gourcuff has struggled with form and fitness. His injury woes have prevented him from a single game this season and he is transfer listed at Lyon. Their new protégé Clement Grenier has been passed Gourcuff’s torch.
M’Vila has had dalliances with poor form but mostly it has been a poor attitude that has saw his stock fall from a massive £26 million to the £6.2 million reported fee QPR have agreed with Rennes; a club who have simply grown sick of his continual reputation for a playboy lifestyle off the pitch. Currently serving a lengthy ban from the international team he is France’s badboy and the public have grown fed up of it. In the past they have had to deal with the likes of Nicolas Anelka, Eric Cantona and even Samir Nasri causing trouble for the national team. M’Vila seems to have broken the camel’s back.
It is interesting to see how in such a short period of time various different circumstances have conspired to decimate the esteem these two highly talented players are regarded. Just where they end up this January could be the part of the story where their careers get back on track.
Do you think Gourcuff and M’Vila can turn the tide of their careers?
image: © y.caradec