Name: Guillaume Restes
Preferred Foot: Left
Strengths: reflexes, speed, maturity, distribution, communication, focus
Areas for Development: consistency, experience
After long-time France captain Hugo Lloris retired in the wake of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Final, there is a potential vacancy at the goalkeeper position for Les Bleus. Whilst Mike Maignan has filled in between the sticks and is likely to start in the upcoming Euros, the 28-year-old has also proven somewhat injury prone, missing 45 matches to four separate injuries since making the move from Lille to Milan in 2021.
Should Maignan’s injury problems continue this year, Didier Deschamps may be tempted to look elsewhere, and he certainly isn’t short of option. Whilst Brice Samba (29) earned his France debut after guiding Lens to a first Champions League qualification in a decade, Lucas Chevalier (22) and Yehvann Diouf (24) have impressed between the sticks for Lille and Reims. This season, however, one player who has emerged as a breakout sensation in goal is 18-year-old Guillaume Restes.
Born in Toulouse to Ivorian parents, Restes joined Les Violets in 2011 and advanced through the ranks, signing his first professional contract in the summer of 2021. His impressive performances at the academy level earned him comparisons to Alban Lafont, who became the youngest-ever goalkeeper in Ligue 1 when he made his Toulouse debut in November 2015.
Lafont would later move to Fiorentina before heading back to France and joining Nantes. He was there in goal as Nantes narrowly edged Toulouse in the 2020/21 promotion/relegation playoffs, and he was there in goal as newly promoted Toulouse romped to a 5-1 victory in the Coupe de France Final, earning a first-ever European qualification.
Toulouse proceeded to lose several veteran leaders on free transfers including Branco van den Boomen, Stijn Spierings, Brecht Dejaegere and starting goalkeeper Maxime Dupe. Despite the arrival of Alex Dominguez from Las Palmas and the initial announcement of Coupe de France winner Kjetil Haug as the number 1 goalkeeper, Restes emerged from preseason as the starter in goal, making his professional debut on August 13 in a 2-1 win against Nantes.
He has quickly emerged as one of the first names on the team sheet under Carles Martinez Novell, who had previously served as an assistant in 2022/23 under Philippe Montanier before replacing him at the helm in the summer. Boasting quick reflexes and impressive maturity, Restes is always quick to react, constantly getting up quickly after making the first save before getting back into position in order to anticipate the next shot.
Not only does he have strong reactions, but he has a strong hand to palm the ball away from danger. Whilst he isn’t the tallest, he compensates with his speed, enabling him to move across the box and maintain a good starting position. He can close down the attacker rapidly and is constantly on alert to intercept through balls and sweep away the danger.
Moreover, Restes is also a promising ball-playing goalkeeper who can play accurate first-time passes under pressure. His distribution belies his tender years, capable of playing high and wide passes out to the wingers and bailing his team out of pressure and launching a counter with an inch-perfect pass.
It’s easy to forget Restes is only 18 when you watch him, due to his bravery and maturity. He’s not the biggest GK at 6’1”, but he isn’t afraid to put his body on the line to protect his goal, constantly taking ownership of his box. Restes has a 69.3% save percentage in Ligue 1, conceding 23 goals so far and making 2.9 saves per 90, and he has played a pivotal role in their European campaign, one that has seen them finish second in their Europa League group ahead of Union Saint-Gilloise and LASK Linz and that featured a memorable 3-2 win against Liverpool.
The goalkeeper position is arguably more reliant on experience than any other position — there’s a reason why you don’t see too many teenagers holding down the fort in goal. It’s rare that you see a player like Lafont, who has made 314 first-team appearances at the age of 24, or Restes beat out experienced backups and emerge as the starter in goal, but it’s clear to see that the faith in this teenage gem has been more than justified.
At the tender age of 18, Restes already has a strong communication ability and is constantly instructing his teammates where to go and whether or not to leave it, a vocal leader who is constantly trying to notice patterns of play and tell his defenders where to position themselves in order to keep the backline secure.
Not only does he show a leader’s mentality, but good concentration as well. There are often times where young goalkeepers have little to do and can fall asleep on the counter, but Restes has been kept busy at a Toulouse side that has struggled in the bottom half this season. After finishing 13th in their return to the top-flight, Toulouse currently sit 14th in the table, one point above the relegation play-off spot.
Les Violets average just 49.1% possession and have conceded 29.5 expected goals in Ligue 1, only behind Lyon (29.9) and Nantes (30.8), meaning that Restes constantly has to be alert to the danger. This has certainly helped develop his character and made him a more proactive goalkeeper, and it could see him earn a big move soon. Whilst he recently penned a contract extension until 2028, Restes has no shortage of suitors with Bayern Munich reportedly eyeing him as a potential successor to Manuel Neuer in goal.
If he keeps up this level of performances, it’ll only be a matter of time before Restes becomes the latest Toulouse player to earn a big-money move after Fares Chaibi (Eintracht Frankfurt), Manu Kone (Borussia Monchengladbach), Ibrahim Sangare (PSV) and Amine Adli (Bayer Leverkusen). At 18 years of age, the sky is the limit for Toulouse’s young phenom in goal.
By: Ben Mattinson / @Ben_Mattinson_
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Visionhaus – Getty Images