Name: Mathieu Valbuena
International Caps: 36
Position: Attacking Midfielder
In Franck Ribery’s, Valbuena has certainly assumed a more prominent role for his country this summer. The pint-sized attacking midfielder was noticeably absent in France’s drab 0-0 draw with Ecuador and is expected to return to the starting line-up for this afternoon’s knockout clash with Nigeria. Having reportedly informed Marseille of his intentions to leave this summer, Arsenal and Liverpool are among a host of clubs said to be interested in the 29 year old’s services.
Standing at just five foot six inches tall, Valbuena has battled concerns over his height for the entirety of his career. Primarily used by Marseille on the right of a 4-3-3 in recent times, the Frenchman is capable of fulfilling any attacking role across the midfield. In Ligue 1 this season, the 29 year old accumulated three goals and six assists, averaging an impressive 2.6 key passes per game.
Whilst his domestic form has been respectable, it is for his country in the last twelve months that Valbuena has really caught the eye. Didier Deschamps made the mistake of dropping the 29 year old for the first leg playoff defeat to Ukraine, only to recall the Marseille man to devastating effect in the thrilling 3-0 second leg victory. In France’s recent 5-2 mauling of Switzerland, the midfielder notched a goal and an assist and was observed by many to be the central figure to Les Bleus vibrant attacking play.
Technically gifted, Valbuena’s attacking threat primarily stems from his agility and movement on and off the ball. Despite his height, the 29 year old doesn’t shy away from his defensive duties and is more than willing to get stuck in to a challenge.
Although he has three years left on his contract, Marseille are believed to be willing to listen to offers around the £8-10 million mark. The diminutive attacking midfielder has impressed at international level in recent times and would certainly provide an experienced and versatile option for either Arsenal or Liverpool. Valbuena will be focused on France’s World Cup fortunes at present but would surely find an offer from one of these Premier League giants as too good to turn down.