One of January’s earliest transfers in Ligue 1 was Foued Kadir’s switch from Valenciennes to Marseille. The Algerian playmaker had six months left on his contract with Daniel Sanchez’s side and had been a major factor in VA’s over-achievement so far this season. Understandably, he wanted to challenge himself elsewhere and move whilst his stock was high. At 29, that challenge presented itself in Marseille and the attacking midfielder now takes on the task to inspire OM to a sustained title challenge.
At a time when a €15 million transfer fee is being touted for Montpellier’s underperforming Moroccan star Younes Belhanda, the €500,000 fee paid by Elie Baup’s side looks like smart business. Kadir’s creativity for Valenciennes has outstripped anything that Belhanda has produced so far this season and the Algerian has been one of this season’s revelations. In times when it is impossible to compete with the financial might of Paris Saint-Germain, les Phoceens are going about business a different way and sourcing low-cost domestic talent from their smaller rivals.
Since Baup’s arrival, OM have been cutting costs as they embrace life in their bitter rival's economic shadow. The club have managed to keep the majority of their star talent in Provence, however, and are now carefully adding to the squad. Admittedly, the fact that neither of the Ayew brothers and Cameroonian defender Nicolas Nkoulou will be reporting for African Cup of Nations duty is a bonus, but Kadir’s arrival was hardly just to make up the numbers. Besides, he will be representing Algeria in South Africa, so he won’t be available until February.
Kadir joined Valenciennes in 2009, and since then has established himself as one of their leading attacking presences. Capable of both scoring goals and assisting them, the Algerian quickly became a key player. However, Valenciennes’ struggles against relegation in past seasons had Kadir frustrated, as it proved difficult to drag the team forward alongside Gregory Pujol.
It was not until this season, though, that the 29-year-old demonstrated his true ability on a regular basis as VA began to soar.
The arrival of Anthony le Tallec, the resurgence of Gael Danic and the continued rise of Vincent Aboubakar have helped Sanchez’s side climb the Ligue 1 table this year, but Kadir has undoubtedly been the key man. With six goals and four assists in 18 appearances, 11 of which were starts, the Algerian is finally playing on a team with players capable of benefitting from his brilliant creativity. In recent years, it had only been Pujol capable of putting the ball in the net, but the Frenchman’s demise through age and injury forced Sanchez to make some changes over the summer. It was those changes that unlocked Kadir’s potential.
French-born but now representing Algeria through his family, Kadir spent the early part of his career in the lower leagues taking in spells with Troyes, Cannes and Amiens, before finally landing in Valenciennes in 2009. It was not until he started representing the Desert Warriors in 2010 that his reputation really started to grow. His call-up was part of a wave of Algerian players of French descent electing to play for their country ahead of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Since then he has become an integral part of the national team’s set-up.
An attacking midfielder who is capable of playing out wide, Kadir is technically gifted and reads the game well. He can control games, pull the strings for his side and has an eye for the sublime too. He is quick and intelligent on the ball, attacks space and can even play up top if necessary. Given Marseille’s lack of striking options, Kadir’s arrival is probably in part to complement the creativity of Mathieu Valbuena, Morgan Amalfitano and Joey Barton. However, given current top scorer Andre-Pierre Gignac’s injury struggles this season and a lack of depth, don’t be surprised to see him move further forward.
At 29, Kadir is no spring chicken, but this move represents him finally finding his true level, the beginning of his career at the top. Valenciennes are a good club who play entertaining football, but the Algerian’s long-term prospects there were not guaranteed.
At Marseille, that will be different.
Surrounded by top players and coached by Baup, who has instilled new belief within the side since his arrival in the summer, this is a team that thrives on invention. Kadir now has all the ingredients necessary to thrive in Provence and to realise his full potential on a consistent basis, something which VA could not offer long-term.
His arrival at Stade Velodrome comes at the right time. Marseille needed to reinforce their attacking options; they have looked good so far this season but have appeared toothless at key moments. With a point to prove and lost time to make up for, Kadir will provide that impact in the attacking third. Moreover, his pairing with French internationals Valbuena and Amalfitano could prove lucrative for OM as they now boast Ligue 1’s most creative midfield.
Once again, Ligue 1 has come up trumps when it comes to affordable, top-quality talent. Whilst the rest of Europe clamours over stars such as Belhanda, Marseille can be happy with the fact that they have already profited from the best value in this transfer window so far.