Adam Ounas, OGC Nice
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Five things on Adam Ounas

Publish on 02/03/2020 at 22h04 - S. TELFORD

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Adam Ounas was on target as OGC Nice snatched a 1-1 draw against his first Ligue 1 Conforama club Girondins de Bordeaux on Sunday, but what else is there to know about the Napoli-owned winger?

1) Bordeaux vintage?

 

Ounas was born in Chambray-lès-Tours - the same commune in central France as Manchester United and France legend Mikaël Silvestre - and first joined the youth academy of local club Tours FC at the age of four, encouraged by his Algeria-born goalkeeping father, Hadji.

 

A promising attacking talent - years spent aiming shots at Ounas Sr. helped see to that - his career was nearly derailed when he was released seven years later with his immature teenaged behaviour not deemed appropriate by the Indre-et-Loire club.

 

He was spotted by Bordeaux recruiters Yannick Stopyra and Arnaud Vaillant in a match organised for young players released by youth academies at the age of 16, though, and was offered a path back into the game.

 

2) Aging like wine

 

Ounas wasted little time in putting those youthful mis-steps behind him, with then-Bordeaux coach Willy Sagnol saying: "Ounas is a nice product from the training centre. His attitude and behaviour have been spoken about a lot but since he's been with us he's been flawless. He has the potential to go far but we must protect him."

 

That was in 2015 after two seasons with Bordeaux's reserves, during which time Ounas honed his craft playing alongside future senior teammates Enzo Crivelli and Valentin Vada. Three goals in two years with Bordeaux B became eight goals in the following two campaigns with the first team, with four assists thrown in for good measure, as Ounas took the step up in competition in his stride.

 

Serie A giants Napoli had seen enough and made a move for the then 20-year-old in 2017, fending off reported interest from Manchester United to secure the winger's services.

 

Watch: Ounas's goal for Nice against former employers Bordeaux


 

3) The Italian job

 

With fierce competition from the likes of Dries Mertens, José Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne in the Napoli attack, Ounas was restricted to seven league appearances, each of them from the bench, in his maiden season in Italy, but he showed flashes of what he was capable of, scoring against RB Leipzig in the UEFA Europa League.

 

The following campaign - his last before returning to France with Nice on loan - saw Ounas pick up more Serie A minutes under Maurizio Sarri and then Carlo Ancelotti, and he scored goals in clean sheet wins for I Partenopei over Sassuolo, Frosinone and Parma, helping his side to a second-place finish.

 

Ounas has a contract with Napoli which runs until 2022. With teammates like former FC Metz stalwart Kalidou Koulibaly - now regarded as one of the game's best centre-backs - describing the winger as a "genius," Patrick Vieira pulled off quite the coup in persuading Ounas that he should spend at least the 2019/20 campaign on loan with the Côte d'Azur club, and it has so far proved productive for club and player.

 

Ounas's goal against first employers Bordeaux took him to three for the current Ligue 1 Conforama campaign. Throw in his three assists and the creative left-footer has had a direct hand in a goal every 210 minutes he has played, playing the pass before the pass many more times in between.

 

Riyad Mahrez, Manchester City 

 

4) International allegiance

 

The French national team is littered with players past and present who could also have turned out for Algeria, from Zinedine Zidane through Karim Benzema and Nabil Fekir to even Kylian Mbappé, whose mother hails from the former French colony.

 

Ounas always planned on turning out for Algeria, though, despite featuring for France's under-20s in the 2015/16 season, scoring once in his two games with Les Espoirs.

 

"You know, when your parents are born in Algeria and you're born in France, the choice is often complicated for some," Ounas explained. "But for me, my choice was already made, even when I was in the French youth age group. I always had the idea to play for Algeria. It was a choice of the heart. You can't think about it too much."

 

Three goals in nine international outings alongside his idol Riyad Mahrez - the Manchester City winger who made the same decision in 2014 - and it would appear that Ounas is on the fast-track to being proved right.

 

5) Already a champion

 

Ounas's first senior international cap for Algeria came in September 2017, two months after his move to Napoli, in a 1-0 home loss to Zambia in qualifying for the 2020 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Les Fennecs were ultimately unsuccessful in making it to what would have been a fifth Finals tournament, but they made up for it and then some at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt last summer.

 

Ounas matched Mahrez as the competition's second top scorer - behind only Nigeria's Odion Ighalo, latterly of Manchester United - scoring against Tanzania (twice) and Guinea, as Djamel Belmadi's side went on to lift their second AFCON title.

 

He may have had false starts in the past but at 23, Ounas is beginning to blossom into the player that Bordeaux and many others always believed he might become.