A surprise inclusion in France’s squad for this summer’s European Championships, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa has certainly risen through the French football ranks in the past few years.
Having just celebrated his 23rd birthday, Les Bleus coach Laurent Blanc sprung the major shock in his 26-man preliminary side, naming the Montpellier skipper after helping the outsiders to the cusp of a Ligue 1 title. A draw against Auxerre this weekend would complete the job.
And, after his sudden rise to prominence, GMF decided it was time to put the microscope on the centre back...
Yanga-Mbiwa is not a flash in the pan. He’s gradually improved year-on-year at the Stade de la Mosson, graduating from the academy to the first team as a teenager at the end of the 2006/07 season.
He’s since featured over 30 times in four of the following five campaigns, suggesting that injuries are not a major issue in the Bangui-born defender’s make-up.
After helping his side to promotion from Ligue 2, new manager Rene Girard made it a priority to keep Yanga-Mbiwa at the club, and it proved a shrewd move as he’s adapted to the top flight with ease.
With just over a year left on his contract however, clubs will be able to get a decent price for the eight-cap U21 international.
He’s also admitted interest in a move to England, more specifically Manchester United and Arsenal, in the past.
"To play for Manchester United would be a great satisfaction and a dream which could become reality," he told Canal+.
"Arsenal, also, is a big team. Marseille, also, despite of their difficulties, remains very attracting. I would never have thought that Marseille would follow me."
Strong in the tackle and solid in the air, Yanga-Mbiwa appears to have the tools at his disposal to fit in well in the Premier League.
Whilst there is little doubt that the standard of the French top flight has improved in recent years, the step-up from Ligue 1 to the Premier League can’t be under-estimated and could be a challenge.
Additionally, Yanga-Mbiwa is yet to play European football, and so therefore hasn’t challenged himself at the very highest level of the club game. Without a full international cap, that mans the 6ft defender is relying heavily on his homeland experience.
Questions marks over his ability on the ball also remain, a key component for any player looking to make their mark in the English top flight. Despite his physical presence, he doesn’t pose much of an attacking threat at the top end of the pitch.
All the signs suggest that Yanga-Mbiwa is on the road to becoming a fantastic defender, and the time might be right to get the Montpellier skipper on a cut-price deal this summer.
With an omission that English football appears, both Manchester United and Arsenal are firm favourites to win this particular race should they decide that he’s worth a gamble.
The need is probably greater at Arsenal, and Arsene Wenger’s love affair with French football could be a key component in any possible deal.
That said, United are unlikely to let a star of the future join the Gunners withoutr a fight, and a transfer scrap could be in the offing from July 1st.