After a dismal season in which Marseille only survived the relegation zone by 9 points due to the industrious performances of Lassana Diarra, Franck McCourt’s L’OM lost five starters, including captain Steve Mandanda, and other important squad fillers in the summer of 2016. So, why would they have any chance of entering the new year in 6th place, 9 points away from a Champions League spot? Two words: Maxime Lopez. His idol, and stylistic equivalent is Iniesta, though the baby-faced assassin is often likened to fellow Algerian descendant and L’OM product Samir Nasri. He fouls a lot, and he has to improve his tackling, but he’s the complete package. Tactically, he’s superb for a creative playmaker, knowing where to move without the ball, and constantly improving his end product. He’s apt as a controller with his smart positioning, melodic link-up play, and eagle-eye vision. Simply put, he allows Rudi García’s fluid football to happen. Not unlike Nasri, he can control games and break down defenses with his dribbling. Let’s hope he keeps the Nasri-esque off-the-field incidents to a minimum, though.
Photo Credit: Yannick Parienti