African Cup of Nations: Scouting Premier League Transfer Target Younes Belhanda

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentJanuary 22, 2013

African Cup of Nations: Scouting Premier League Transfer Target Younes Belhanda

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    Montpellier’s Moroccan international Younès Belhanda is currently competing in the Africa Cup of Nations.

    As he attempts to help Morocco win their first ACON since 1976, what’s certain is that his future does not lie with MHSC, as club president Louis Nicollin explained to L'Equipe (via Sky Sports): “I will let him [Belhanda] leave, and I think he wants to leave as well.”

    Younès is a transfer target for several European clubs including Premier League teams.

    This article will provide a detailed assessment of what Belhanda can offer to prospective employers. 

Younès Belhanda's Early Struggles to Find His Footballing Identity

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    Younès Belhanda, Montpellier, CAM/WAM, Age: 22, 5'10" (1.77 m), 172 lbs (78 kg), French-born Moroccan International 


    If Tino Costa wasn't suspended, Belhanda wouldn't have made his Ligue 1 debut against Paris Saint-Germain, where he came up against French legend Claude Makélélé.

    Playing in the heart of midfield, Younès was guided through the game by Joris Marveaux and Romain Pitau. 

    Belhanda made an impression because it was his corner that was flicked on by captain Nenad Dzodić which led to Emir Spahić's late equaliser—92 minutes and 51 seconds.

    Years later, Emir missed a tackle as he watched Barcelona's David Villa net the winner against Sevilla—92 minutes and 15 seconds. 

    Going by that 1-1 draw vs. PSG, there wasn't any hint that Belhanda would turn into the player he is today.

    If anything, teammate Karim Aït Fana was the Montpellier youngster with a bit of flamboyance in his game. 

    Deep down, manager René Girard knew Belhanda wasn't a No. 6 nor would he become an elite central midfielder.

    In his first two Ligue 1 seasons, Younès completed 94 tackles in return for 124 fouls, so he was an inefficient ball-winner.

    Jamel Saihi was trying to become a first team regular and the next season, the club signed Marco Estrada. 

    Girard made a comment which foreshadowed Younès becoming more of an entertainer (via "His desire to get on the ball combined with excellent technique means he can play through the middle or on the wings. He reminds me of Robert Pirès."

    One can only assume that Belhanda exhibited Pirès-esque creativity in training, which prompted René to think outside the box, and give Younès an extended run in a more attack-orientated role.

    What a decision that turned out to be. 

Younès Belhanda: Good and Bad

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    Extravagant, swashbuckling and impetuous are three words that accurately describe Younès Belhanda. 

    He can glide past his marker with ease, makes low-percentage passes look easy, and plays the game with an air of arrogance. 

    Clipping a panenka over a goalkeeper requires the innate ability to be in control of your nerves whilst executing a highly-risky manoeuvre. 

    It's hard enough putting the ball in the back of the net from 12 yards out—just ask the England national team—but you also have to block out the thought of possibly failing and the repercussions you'd receive missing a glorious opportunity because you tried something pretentious. 

    Unless, Maicosuel starts scoring for fun at Udinese, he'll always be known as the guy who cost the club £16 million by mishitting a panenka in the UEFA Champions League playoffs. 

    Younès' love for panenkas tells you that he's supremely confident in himself and is serene from the penalty spot. 

    Yet, there's nothing serene about Belhanda when he isn't taking penalties. 

    He has some severe problems controlling his emotions—at least, he didn't punch a journalist in the face like teammate Cyril Jeunechamp (well, not yet). 

    In the 4-1 loss to Lille, Younès shoulder charged Nolan Roux and kicked Benoit Pedretti in the space of three seconds. 

    Then-Lyon midfielder Miralem Pjanić was involved in a dispute with Belhanda. Unsurprisingly, Younès later hacked down Pjanić, and was red carded.

    Another player to feel Belhanda's wrath was Valenciennes player José Saez, who was elbowed in the face. 

    Last May, Younès was red carded along with Evian defender Cédric Mongongu, after both were involved in a scuffle.

    As they did the walk of shame, Belhanda verbally abused Cédric, to which the defender slapped Younès, who retaliated—setting off a big brawl. 

    It's not just Belhanda's impulsiveness but he's a quirky lad. 

    In that game against Evian (the one with the massive punch-up), Olivier Giroud was unable to control his jitters, and rather than take the penalty, he abstained. 

    Souleymane Camara stepped up and missed, to which Younès implied that Olivier was mentally weak.

    This was right after Giroud had criticised L'Equipe's for focusing too much on Younès' altercation with Mongongu. 

    And... the foot in mouth award goes to Belhanda. 

Younès Belhanda Statistical Analysis

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    League Only 12-13 G SPG A SCPG P% CDPG
    Hiroshi Kiyotake (23) 3 6.3 5  2.8 81.6 2.8 
    Isco (20) 4 11 1 1 84.8 1.5
    Juan Quintero (20) 1 43 2 1.4 87.2 2.4
    Koke (21) 3 7.3 4 2.7 82.6 0.5
    Younès Belhanda (22) 6 6.5 2 1.5 78.8 0.7


    (age); G = goals; SPG = shots per game; A = assist/s; SCPG = shots created per game; P% = passing percentage; CDPG = completed dribbles per game


    Younès is an excellent prospect but someone like Nürnberg's Kiyotake, who will be cheaper, is a significantly more well-rounded player than Belhanda. 

    Quintero (Pescara), Koke (Atlético Madrid) and Isco (Málaga) have higher upsides than Younès. 

    Belhanda's unusually low completed dribbles per game stat can be explained by him being dispossessed 79 percent of the time he takes on an opponent. 

    Point is that YouTube compilations will make any decent player look world-class.

    He's a quality footballer but not £20 million good. 

Younès Belhanda: Africa Cup of Nations and Current Transfer Situation

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    Like Burkina Faso's Alain Traoré, who scored a late equaliser against Nigeria, Younès Belhanda isn't fully-fit for the Africa Cup of Nations. 

    So keep that in mind when you're watching him play for a technically gifted Morocco side that has exited the group stages in their last three ACONs. 

    Angola should have beaten Morocco with Guilherme Afonso missing right in front of goals and Manucho fluffing a point-blank header. 

    Within 10 minutes of coming on as a sub, Younès dinked his way into Angola's penalty box but mistimed his shot. 

    If Belhanda was using Morocco like Kevin-Prince Boateng using Ghana, then Younès would have pulled out of the tournament due to injury.

    But, since he's still with the Moroccan squad, it reaffirms his patriotism, especially with statements like this (via Tim Gow at "We have no right to fail this time around. We have a debt to the Moroccan people after what happened at the last tournament."

    Belhanda must start against Cape Verde given this is a must-win game for the Moroccans.

    Whilst he's in South Africa, he's probably on the phone to his agent every few hours, with his future still up in the air. 

    Turkish giants Fenerbahçe, who signed former Ligue 1 star Moussa Sow, are negotiating with Montpellier over the possibility of buying Younès (per 

    MHSC outspoken president Louis Nicollin will only sell Belhanda to an English or German club.

    His gripe with Fenerbahçe seems to be monetary-based (from L'Equipe via Sky Sports): "They wanted to pay us in three installments. They can keep their money."

    Tottenham Hotspur are still in contention to sign Younès, according to talkSPORT. Why would Spurs want him?

    The London club would have crossed out the Moroccan's name when Daniel Levy sealed the deal for Lewis Holtby, who plays in the same position as Belhanda, and is a way better ball-winner (wins back possession 8.7 times in league/UCL play compared to Younès' 2.3). 

    The Liverpool Echo are reporting that Everton are interested in Belhanda.

    This will only happen if Marouane Fellaini leaves on a big-money transfer to a club like Chelsea. 

    Should Eintracht Frankfurt fail to qualify for Europe whilst the Toffees get a UEFA Champions League spot, going for Alexander Meier is a logical move.

    He plays the same role as Fellaini for Frankfurt, not to mention the German is stronger and technically better than the Belgian. 

    Also, Everton don't exactly hold Montpellier in the highest regard, after Ibrahima Bakayoko flopped badly coupled with Olivier Giroud's struggles at Arsenal this season. 

    Here's an excerpt from Philippa Booth's wonderful profile on Younès for French Football Weekly:

    He spoke of not wanting to flash his cash (citing, amongst other things, religious reasons), and referring to buying a Porsche as 'unnecessary', with an air of regret. 

    He does seem to want Montpellier to profit, however, citing Eden Hazard as a good model to follow—"I hope that one day, Montpellier can cash in, thanks to me."

    Translation: please sell me to a rich club, so I can flash my cash

    If you are to believe the words of Nicollin, Younès actually wants more money (from L'Equipe via Sky Sports): 

    Belhanda and Mapou, it was set in their heads what they wanted. Do I want them now? No. They showed a lack of professionalism, which is evident in view of the wages they were seeking.

    Don't hesitate to comment below with your opinion of Belhanda. 



    Article Cliff Notes

    • Younès Belhanda: talented but troubled footballer with anger management issues. 
    • Has elite potential but not as good as some people think he is.
    • Isn't fully-fit at ACON, so you may not see the best of him. 
    • No reason for Spurs to buy him after signing Holtby. 
    • Better alternatives than Younès for Everton. 
    • Fenerbahçe want him but MHSC president will only sell to English/German clubs. 



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