Bedoya helping Les Canaris chirp
FC Nantes are the surprise of the French season so far, and the form of their American import Alejandro Bedoya is one reason why Les Canaris are chirping again.
The promoted club stand fifth in the table approaching Week 10's game at Ajaccio and Michel Der Zakarian's men have won their last three matches in the league. Bedoya may still be looking for his first goal or assist but has played his part in the renaissance of the eight-time champions.
Bedoya told the Ligue 1 show on BeIn Sport: "Yeah, I'd say I'm pretty satisfied with the way things are going so far. It's been a bit hectic, my transition over here, in terms of a lot of games. My first start came against PSG. What better way to start off my campaign here."
On August 25 2013, Bedoya was introduced to La Beaujoire for the first time, a moment the New Jersey-born midfielder isn't ready to forget.
"I can remember walking out of the tunnel in the stadium, and La Beaujoire was all green and yellow, the fans had the nice Tifo going. I couldn't hear myself sometimes on the field. It's amazing, you know, that atmosphere. I don't know if I'd say I was expecting that. But I mean I did some homework before coming to Nantes, the history of the club, tradition. It's a big, big club in France."
Bedoya made his first Ligue 1 start in the unfamiliar position of right wing-back, but he was moved in to an attacking midfield role after only 30 minutes, and began wreaking havoc with his darting runs. Indeed, only a stunning Salvatore Sirigu save denied Bedoya a potential winner on his full debut.
"It was a cracking match, both teams wanted to play, and of course PSG had a little bit more possession, but we stuck to our game plan and we created chances. If it wasn't for Sirigu making that save on me it I think would have been a different game."
Derby win over Rennes
As it is Nantes lost a pulsating encounter 2-1, but took confidence from the performance and have been in near unstoppable form since, picking up 13 points from their last six games. One of the recent triumphs carried extra importance for the fans, Nantes clinching all three points away to regional rivals Rennes in Week 8.
"From what I hear, from what the players tell me, for the fans this Rennes derby is very important to them. It's probably the biggest game for them. For us, it's important that we went there and there was no other mentality other than 'we're going here to get a result'. to win. I think we matched them, more than matched them actually. We played better."
Bedoya has been quick to pick up on the local rivalries and has also been sampling the local delicacies, although the former Rangers player admits he's no connoisseur when it comes to French cuisine. The Ligue 1 show had lunch with him and Bedoya bit off rather more than he could chew: "I got the rump steak. I asked for it to be well done, very well done, but as you can see, it's er (laughs) not so well done I guess. But it's alright, I'm hungry."
Der Zakarian delighted to have Bedoya on board
His willingness to immerse himself in the French culture combined with his energetic and effective performances have seen Bedoya emerge as a fans' favourite. His coach Michel Der Zakarian is delighted to have lured the 26-year-old from Helsingborg in Sweden this summer.
Der Zakarian said: "He's settled in very well. he is technically excellent and is also prepared to work for the good of the team. His movement is always intelligent and he makes the right decisions."
Bedoya is desperate to repay his coach's faith and to play in Ligue 1 again after missing the Week 9 win over Evian through injury. Bedoya recovered in time to line up for the full 90 for his country in both the 2-0 home win over Jamaica and the 3-2 victory in Panama in World Cup qualifiers.
Of Der Zakarian, Bedoya said: "From the beginning he has given me confidence, and he has confidence to put me in certain positions in certain situations. I think that's always a good thing. Even though he can't speak English and I can't speak French our relationship is pretty good. We manage to have some laughs and joke around in some way. I don't know how we do it, in sign language or just football talk."
In six games, Bedoya's already been used in four different positions, but his coach insists he knows exactly where the American international wants to play: "His best position is behind the striker. At the moment he's competing for the central role with Jordan Veretout. He's also good on the right, which is where he plays for his country."
Bedoya said: "I'm a versatile player. I've been used here on the right, on the left, as a central midfielder, as well as a right wing-back."
The open-minded American, who has already has spells with Orebro and Helsingborg in Sweden, and played briefly for Rangers in Scotland, is relishing the chance to discover another country, and another city.
World Cup dreams
Above all, he's hungry for regular football at Nantes to ensure he keeps his place in Jurgen Klinsmann's US team, who have already qualified for the Brazil World Cup. 2013-14 could be a special season for Alejandro Bedoya, and an exciting one for Ligue 1's surprise package Nantes.