We are getting to that time of the year when transfer rumors start flying around faster than Harry Potter books can fly off the bookstore shelves. And while the usual Ligue 1 big names are always mentioned, some of the smaller names get thrown into the discussion as well.
This year, that smaller name has to be Morgan Amalfitano.
At the beginning of this Ligue 1 season, Amalfitano was just another name to most football followers. And to those who followed France’s top flight, he was a good, solid player that could knock in a few goal as well as distribute the ball nicely throughout the pitch. Yes, he was a good player, but nothing really made him stand out as far as being a possible top target for major European football clubs.
Even in the first 16 matches of this season, Amalfitano wasn’t extremely flashy. Up front, Kevin Gameiro was leading the charge for Lorient. Along side him was Lynel Kitimbala, who played solid in the first third of the season. In addition, Lorient liked to play the ball along the left side of the pitch, utilizing Sigamary Diarra and Arnold Mvuemba, who proved to be valuable tools for Gameiro last year, along with Marama Vahirua, who is now at Nancy.
But around the 17th match of the season, something changed. Kitimbala wasn’t looking as good up front as he did the start of the season, as well as getting banged up a little. It looked as if manager Christian Gourcuff could be looking for other options up front. He switched around the line ups a few times, but Kitimbala, who was still getting the starts, was being substituted early in matches to offer up a change in strategy . In addition, Diarra was having an average season as well.
At this point, the plan of attack seemed to move from the left side to the right. Morgan Amalfitano has proven during his time at Lorient that he is a productive player, both in distributing and goal scoring. Therefore, Lorient seemed to shift their priorities. And boy did it pay off.
This was kind of a switch from what they had done in the past. Last year, the ball would make its way either through the center of the pitch when Lorient were in a fast-break counter attack mode, or along the left side of the pitch, where the system of Diarra-Vahirua-Gameiro would work wonders. In this system, Amalfitano would push up more, almost in a “back up” role to Gameiro if the ball were to be out of Gameiro’s reach (when he was playing in the attacking right midfield position).
Now, it seems as if Gourcuff isn’t afraid to use both sides of the pitch, giving Lorient less of a predictable approach to their offense, with Amalfitano being a key to that unpredictability. And with Amalfitano being more of a “north-south” roamer, he can drop back as easily as he can push forward. In addition, Gourcuff seems to allow Amalfitano to dribble the ball as well, which is extremely interesting considering Lorient like to do the one-touch passes to create a fast flowing match which benefits Gameiro.
Another positive that Amalfitano has is that he can play forward as well. While this isn’t his natural position, he has been able to show that he is just as beneficial in that position as he is in the midfield. The interesting point is that when Amalfitano is playing up front with Gameiro, he seems to be there solely as support for Gameiro. But while playing midfield, he will actually dribble the ball in and take a chance on goal himself. Therefore, the traditional roles of the two positions are basically switched in the case of Amalfitano.
These are just the details about his time at Lorient, but what about before his arrival to Brittany? He was first part of the youth program for AS Cannes. Mostly known for the film festival, Cannes is also known for bringing the world some of the best football players the world has seen. Zinedine Zidane, Patrick Vieira, Gael Clichy, Julien Escude and Sebastien Frey as just a few of the names that have come from that team.
After his time at Cannes, he played for CS Sedan where, in 2004, he started showing his passing talent as well as being a disciplined player, which made him a target for Ligue 1 teams as soon as Sedan were relegated to Ligue 2. It wasn’t until his arrival at Lorient that Christian Gourcuff was able to unlock his goal scoring potential.
Therefore, for any European team that is looking for a good right midfielder or a right forward in a supporting role to a higher profile striker who might not have the support behind him currently, than Morgan Amalfitano is your man…and for cheap as well.