With rumours circulating that Chelsea may successfully overturn their transfer ban this January, the natural follow-on question to ask is who they are most interested in signing. Top of the list appears to be Youcef Atal. The Telegraph mooted him as a target back in April while at the start of September, Calcio Mercato reignited the transfer chatter.
The 23-year-old Nice right-back has seen his star rise in recent years, winning considerable plaudits for his versatility and athleticism – the BBC outline his ability to play at right-back and left-midfield – and yet for all the acclaim he seems to remain a relatively unknown figure to our shores.
Who better to help us fill in the blanks on the potential next Stamford Bridge superstar than those who know him best? Here’s three expert opinions on the versatile wide man…
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Since making his international bow in 2017 Atal has greatly impressed, so it’s hardly a surprise to learn that Belmadi thinks highly of his forward-thinking full-back. Even so, his words are illuminating, concentrating as they do on the player’s heart and passion as much as his ability.
As quoted by Foot Mercato, he said to RMC Sport: “He’s a great player, a modern footballer, he has a big heart like I do not know what. He loves his job; he wants to progress, to go far, he is afraid of nothing. In Nice, he can play everywhere.”
Concerning Atal, Vieira – who certainly knows a thing or two about success in English football – is happy to wax lyrical here following an eye-catching display back in April that saw the right-sided flyer become the first Algerian to score a hat-trick in Ligue 1 for three decades, focusing specifically on his willingness to get into the box.
As per the BBC: “Youcef is improving. He works a lot. If you look at his goals, you see the aggression he has to be in the right place to score. He is a positive character with good spirit. He was rewarded for his efforts. The team allowed him to express himself and to show his talent. What Atal has over the others is his desire to get into the box.”
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It becomes very apparent that a player is making one hell of an impression when even his direct rival for the shirt talks him up. As was the case last year when Jallet – now with Amiens – was asked by Nice’s official website to comment on the emerging talent he was struggling to dislodge.
As per OGC Nice: “Youcef is an explosive player, able to bring a lot offensively. He showed it every time he had the opportunity this season. One thing is certain: it’s a very big right-back in the making.”
With Chelsea’s present right-back Cesar Azpilicueta enduring a miserable period punctuated by errors, the need to bring in serious competition in that area is heightened. The lively, dynamic Atal represents the perfect solution. Now if the Blues can just over-turn that transfer ban…