by Dean Ammi
Faouzi Ghoulam is not a household name when people talk about the best defenders in Europe. Why not? He should be.
Ghoulam burst onto the scene when he signed for Napoli at the beginning of 2014 from a St Etienne side who were selling their star men (Aubameyang and Zouma also left). He was a Benitez signing that went straight into the first team in Naples, however he was not renowned around the continent. When Benitez left for Real Madrid, he tried to bring Ghoulam with him.
2014 also saw what was arguably the best game of Ghoulam’s career – the World Cup knockout game against Germany. He caused Mustafi and Ozil so many problems down that left flank. He put in a world class cross for Islam Slimani who scored, but the goal was narrowly ruled out for offside. Ghoulam then almost scored himself with a curling left-footed shot that had beaten Neuer but it just had a tad too much power on it.
This season, the Algerian international has nine assists (including three in the Champions League). That’s more than Filipe Luis, David Alaba, Jordi Alba, Danny Rose and Alex Sandro. For a left-back to have created nine of your goals is a fantastic record, which has not been applauded enough. The fact of the matter is, if Ghoulam was Brazilian then people would be raving about him every single week.
We have seen at both club level and international level that Ghoulam’s superb left foot is also a weapon from set pieces. He has assisted in the Champions League this season from taking Napoli’s corners, and we have seen him score some absolute belters when taking free-kicks for the national team (5 goals in 23 matches for Algeria – stunning).
At just 26 years of age, we may not have even seen the best of Ghoulam. Having rejected a new deal at Napoli twice, Ghoulam will most probably be sold in the summer at a cheap price in order to avoid him leaving on a free transfer next year. It’s a simple scenario. There is no better value for money left-back in the whole of Europe that your team could sign this summer that is superior to Faouzi Ghoulam.
Dries Mertens has dominated the Neapolitan headlines this campaign with his goal-scoring record, but the majority of his goals have been from the quality crossing and passing service of Ghoulam. But they don’t want you to read about that, do they? You only have to look at the weekend’s action in Serie A. Mertens scored twice. All over the back-pages of newspapers. What they don’t shout about however is that Ghoulam created both of his goals with world class passes. And when you have service into your feet that is so good, it’s easy to score.
There are so many clubs in the market for a solid left-back this summer. Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, Chelsea, AC Milan, Manchester City. These are top, top clubs that Ghoulam would be perfect for. With Zouma now at Stamford Bridge, could Ghoulam reunite with him there? Or will fellow countryman Zinedine Zidane want to bring him to the Bernabeu with Fabio Coentrao departing. So many options. Whoever gets him, enjoy the bargain.