Hexagoal Ligue 1 Trophy

One to watch: Islam Slimani

Publish on 23/10/2019 at 06:30 - D. Crossan


Wissam Ben Yedder may be the leading scorer in Ligue 1 Conforama but the French international wouldn't be there without strike partner Islam Slimani.

Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim describes the duo as "a beautiful marriage", listing Slimani's strengths as "strength and running in behind". There's a bit more to it than that as the 31-year-old Algerian international has resurrected his career in the principality, scoring five goals and setting up a league-leading seven in his seven starts since joining on loan from English Premier League club Leicester City.

Since joining Monaco, Slimani has looked far more like the prolific forward who made defences quiver when he played for Sporting Lisbon than the marginalised figure he cut  at Leicester, Newcastle and Fenerbahçe. Slimani had managed only two league goals in two seasons before finding what looks like the ideal stage for him in Ligue 1 Conforama, boosted by having won the Africa Cup of Nations with Algeria in the summer.

Back story: Born in the Algerian capital Algiers, Slimani forged his reputation at amateur club JSM Chéraga in the Algerian third tier, earning himself an 8,000 euro move to top division outfit CR Bélouizdad in 2009. In 2013, Nantes came in for the bustling forward but he elected to pursue his career with Sporting in Portugal.

He became a huge crowd favourite as he plundered 48 league goals in 82 games for Sporting and played for them in both the Champions League and Europa League. Slimani's goalscoring feats did not go unnoticed and in 2016 he joined English champions Leicester for a fee estimated at 35 million euros, a club record. Slimani started well but on his return from the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, things started to turn sour.

Loaned to Newcastle in January 2018, he barely featured because of injury and suspension. Slimani flopped on loan at Fenerbahçce but things are very different for him at Monaco, where he is on loan with an option to buy.

Current campaign: Under Jardim, who coached him at Sporting in 2013-2014, Slimani hit the ground running, scoring three goals in his first two appearances. Statistically, Slimani has continued to go from strength to strength. He has either scored or provided an assist in all seven league games he's played.

Slimani has provided four assists for Ben Yedder and by setting up the French international for a goal against Rennes in Week 10, Slimani became the first player to provide an assist in five consecutive league matches since Angel Di Maria in 2015-2016. Slimani and Ben Yedder have both been on the scoresheet in three games this season as Monaco's form has picked up because of their strike power.

What you didn't know: Slimani's goal for Algeria against DR Congo on October 10 was his 29th for his country, moving him clear of the legendary Rabah Madjer. Slimani is now only seven goals behind the country's all-time leading scorer Abdelhafid Tasfaout.

Best goal: With the option to buy clause in the Slimani loan deal estimated at 10 million euros by the French press, the striker is doing everything in his power to convince Monaco that would be shrewd business. The best of his five goals to date was his poacher's finish against Nîmes on debut in Week 3. Many of his goals have been down to his physical presence unsettling defenders.

What he said: "I'm very happy to be part of the squad and I can't wait to take on the new challenge with AS Monaco, a great club with big ambitions. I'll give everything so that we fulfill our objectives."

Islam Slimani, on signing for Monaco in August 2019

What they said: "Slimani is walking on water and doing exceptional things in a moribund team. It was a gamble from the Monaco coach, who knew him well. He's the number one player amongst all those stars and I'm not surprised. With his mentality, he's going to get Tasfaout's record."

Djamel Belmadi, Algeria coach

"When I called him up for the first time, I remember everyone criticised me. The president of the federation, Mohamed Raouraoua, asked me who the player was. I knew straight away that he had something. He was intelligent in his movement and good at running in behind. I insisted with Slimani."

Vahid Halilhodzic, who gave Slimani his first Algeria cap in 2012