Blaise Matuidi has waited a long time for the recognition he deserves and it has taken him longer than most to create a player identity for himself. Now at the age of 28, he is the world-class box-to-box midfielder that he always promised to be.
Born to an Angolan father and Congolese mother, Matuidi is another member on the lengthy list of French internationals of African descent, joining the likes of Lillian Thuram, Marcel Desailly, Patrick Vieira and Zinedine Zidane to name but a few. He was born in Toulouse and grew up in the suburbs of Paris so for Matuidi, there is no doubting his personal identity - he is French through and through.
His career trajectory is interesting. He never really settled at youth level with many coaches expressing concern about his lack of physical strength as a stumbling block for his progress as a central midfielder. He ended up playing for five different academies before signing a professional contract with Ligue 2 side Troyes.
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Following three seasons with the Ligue 2 outfit, Matuidi's stock had risen after putting in a number of hardworking performances where he displayed versatility and some raw talent. Saint-Etienne took a punt on the youngster who saw enough potential in him and after spending four successful seasons playing in France's top league, PSG and their new Qatari owners came swooping in, citing the talented Frenchman as a direct replacement for the retiring Claude Makelele.
Having grown up around Paris, his move to PSG in 2011 was a dream come true for Matuidi. It has been the perfect club for his development as a player as Les Parisiens have gradually brought in players of world-class status to supplement the existing core of French players. It has taken him a number of seasons to properly establish himself as a first-choice centre midfielder for the Paris club, and on his debut season he had a few niggling injuries which hindered his progress.
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Now key for PSG and France
The signing of Marco Verratti in 2012 was perfect for Matuidi as it enabled him to play his preferred game which involves supporting attacks, rather than protecting the back four. With the tenacious and dogged Italian playing a deep lying playmaker position, the French international now has the license to join attacks and get himself in positions to score, as he did last May when his goal at Montpellier secured PSG their third consecutive French title.
Matuidi has started this season where he left off - and has scored two goals in four appearances from midfield as the Paris side have sent a strong signal of intent that they want to secure a fourth league title. He scored two more goals for the French national team last night as they beat Serbia 2-1 in a friendly fixture to further show the world what a capable midfielder he is.
Known affectionately in France as 'The Man with Seven Lungs' and 'The Octopus Man' for his incredible stamina and ability to cover every blade of grass, Matuidi is now the first name on the team-sheet for club and country.
Both Laurent Blanc's PSG side and Didier Deschamps's French team will both be counting on him to continue to put in strong performances as they both aspire to lift trophies at the end of the season.
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