Going from a fairly unknown name a few years ago, to now being courted by top clubs like Bayern Munich and PSG, Napoli’s Faouzi Ghoulam has had quite a lot of success at the South of the Italian Peninsula.
Ghoulam has been the talk of the town recently. Other than putting in excellent performances for Napoli, the Algerian international also competed for Algeria at AFCON 2017 and has been on the radar of Bayern Munich and PSG. Ghoulam has certainly risen his level in recent years and is looking to be a key part of Sarri’s Napoli.
Place of Birth- Saint-Priez-en-Jarez, France.
Date of Birth- February 1, 1991 (26 years old).
Position- Left Back
Club- SSC Napoli
Height- 1.88 m
International Career- France U21 (2 appearances) and Algeria (23 appearances, 5 goals).
Despite playing for Algeria’s national team, Ghoulam was born and raised in France where he would spend all his youth career and some of his professional career at Ligue 1 side, Saint-Etienne. Ghoulam started his youth career there in 1999 at the age of 8 and stayed at Saint-Etienne until 2014, when Napoli made a deadline day transfer for the French-Algerian wing back.
Faouzi Ghoulam was considered one of Saint-Etienne’s best players and one of their best youth products. Before he was sold, Ghoulam played alongside Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Saint-Etienne would lose two of their prized jewels in a matter of months. This, naturally, dealt a huge blow to the Ligue 1 side, but it would prove to make dividends for Napoli and Borussia Dortmund, who got hold of the two stars.
Ghoulam made his move out of France on the eve of his birthday at the age of 23. It was a massively under-the-radar type of transfer from Napoli, who were struggling immensely at the left back position. Colombian wing back, Pablo Armero, wasn’t cutting it at Napoli and a lot of the goals Napoli conceded were blamed on him. Therefore, both Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis and Napoli sporting director, Riccardo Bigon, sought out Faouzi Ghoulam from the French league.
Ghoulam only made a €5m move, and now look at him. Napoli could easily sell the talented left back for upwards of €25-30million but Napoli seem adamant on renewing the Algerian’s contract to extend his stay at the Southern Italian giant.
Strengths and Weaknesses
With Ghoulam, there are definitely more strengths than there are weaknesses in his game. His strengths include but are not limited to; Crossing, joining in on the attack, slide tackling, triangle passing, long passing, first touch, penalties.
However, some weaknesses do creep into Ghoulam’s game from time to time; Full concentration for 90 minutes, sloppy mistakes out of the defensive third, accuracy on free-kicks.
A match in which had all of Ghoulam’s strengths and weaknesses piled together was this year’s Juventus-Napoli. Ghoulam was near perfect the whole night up until he miskicked a clearance into the path of one of the most lethal center backs in world football, Leonardo Bonucci. Ghoulam then struggled to clear his lines again in the lead up to Higuain’s winning goal which ultimately saw the partenopei take a 2-1 loss away to Juventus.
Therefore, Ghoulam’s lack of concentration at times can prove to be his downfall, with sloppy mistakes occurring at key moments. In a cagey match against Juventus, you can ill afford a concentration lapse like Ghoulam had, and it ultimately cost his team the match.
However, the part of Ghoulam’s game that makes him such a promising and effective player is his ability to join in the attack and provide an extra option going forward. There aren’t many full-backs in world football who have the ability Ghoulam has in his crosses and passes in the opposition’s final third.
Napoli also have arguably one of the best attacking trident down the left flank in European football, with Ghoulam-Insigne/Mertens-Hamsik. When those three get into a rhythm of one and two touch passing, they eliminate many defensive players en route to goal. Something that makes that trident so lethal is that all three of them know when to interchange their positioning. This is something that proves to be near impossible to defend for the opposition when it is done to perfection.
An example of this attacking trident that Napoli posses is in the lead up to Napoli’s second goal against Benfica on the final matchday of the Champions League group stage. Ghoulam ultimately picked out a wonderful pass to Mertens for the Belgian to finish off and clinch a first place finish for Napoli. However, the thing that made that goal beautiful was the lead up to Ghoulam’s assist, the interchange of positions and passes that created enough space for the Algerian to whip in a perfect low cross was extraordinary to watch for any viewer.
At the age of 26, Ghoulam is entering his prime years as a footballer. Napoli fans will hope he sticks around for longer with them because if Ghoulam continues his stellar form, he will be tempted from massive clubs outside of Italy.
Ghoulam could enter into the conversation for one of the world’s best full backs soon if he maintains his performance standard. It seems as though the Algerian is content with staying at Napoli due to his recent tweet regarding his transfer to Napoli 3 years back:
“The best birthday present for me was signing for Napoli 3 years ago. 3 years have passed but the passion rests. THANK YOU.”
— ghoulam faouzi (@GhoulamFaouzi) February 1, 2017
After a disappointing AFCON exit with Algeria, now Faouzi can have his sole focus on Napoli, scudetto dreams, Coppa Italia wishes and Champions League glory.