Twenty two year old Moroccan international Younes Belhanda has been one of Ligue 1’s outstanding performers this season, and one of the catalysts of Montpellier’s success, wracking up an impressive 11 goals and three assists in all competitions for this season’s underdogs.
Belhanda joined Montpellier at the tender age of 13 and worked his way through the ranks until eventually making his first appearance for the senior team on the opening day of the 09/10 campaign in a 1-1 draw against French giants Paris Saint-Germain – a season where he’d go on to play 34 times for the club, contributing 1 goal and 3 assists in his debut season in Ligue 1.
The 5’9 versatile playmaker can play anywhere across the midfield, and even in a ‘centre forward’ role supporting the main striker – in Belhanda’s case, Olivier Giroud. The two have formed a clinical partnership this season, a bond epitomised by Belhanda’s stunning goal against Marseille at the Stade Velodrome, where he controlled a deft flick from Giroud on his chest, before powering a spectacular scissor kick beyond a stranded Steve Mandanda in the Marseille goal.
Belhanda is incredibly technically gifted; the ease in which he can beat his man is staggering, whether its with a simple drop of the shoulder, a neat step over or just sheer pace. He also has the vision and ability to not only create chances for his team mates, but to finish the attack himself, be it a well placed drive from the edge of the box, or a composed tap in from six yards.
In my opinion, Belhanda is one of the most exciting players to watch in Ligue 1. His intelligence coupled with his magical ability on the ball instills fear into the most chivalrous of defences. The man oozes class, everything he does with the ball is done so gracefully, whether he’s dancing past opponents with delightful ease, or playing an elegant 40 yard pass to switch the play, it’s a joy to watch,
The young Moroccan is one of the hottest prospects in football at the minute, and its plain to see why. The classy midfielder has attracted attention from all over Europe, and the Premier League in particular. Belhanda and co are on course for their first ever Ligue 1 title, as well as Champions League football next year, so Montpellier manager Rene Girard will be reluctant to see one of his star performers leave in summer, but with increasing interest a move away from Stade De La Mosson looks likely.