With two goals and one assist already, Zinédine Ferhat has enjoyed a fantastic start to the season with Nîmes.
The skilful, right-footed playmaker has even been producing magic with his weaker left foot, such as his delightful goal against Nantes. Ferhat told The Ligue 1 Show on beIN SPORTS: "I remember when I was at Le Havre, the president used to say that Fehrat only uses his left foot for getting up the stairs. Well Monsieur Volpe, I scored a pretty nice goal with it there."
"I want to score at least 7 or 8 goals this season"
Ferhat scores his fair share of goals, but his true speciality is setting them up. Nobody contributed more assists for Nîmes than the Algerian last season, and Ferhat still holds the Ligue 2 record having set up 20 goals in one season for Le Havre: "Ever since I was a boy at the national academy in Algeria, I had this knack for setting up goal and didn't score that many. I actually enjoy creating a goal more than I do scoring one. But I mustn't forget the fact that I'm a forward. My job is to make assists and also to score. I've been working hard on my finishing and I want to score at least 7 or 8 goals this season."
Born in Algeria, just outside the capital Alger, Ferhat's childhood was football-obsessed. He had two role models as a boy: one of whom he would see every day, and the other only on the television: "My father was my first role model. He used to play for our local club, Jeunesse Sportive Bordj Menaïel and he also played for JSK Kabylie, one of the biggest clubs in Algeria. I managed to see some videos of him playing, and I can say in all honesty that I'm better than him!" My second role model is Ronaldinho. That guy just didn't seem to feel pressure. He went around nutmegging, scoring. He was on another planet. For me, Ronaldinho is the greatest ever player."
Given his liking of the Brazilian, it is hardly surprising Ferhat has such a technical playing style: "When a supporter goes to watch the game, he wants to see goals, nutmegs, dribbles. That's what football is about. I do like nutmegs, but you mustn't over-do it. The way I see, if I'm going to dribble, I need to make sure I can make a pass afterwards or break into space. Us Algerians, we play like this from the start, when we have kick-abouts with our mates, we try to turn on the style, try little nutmegs, and that stays with us."
Nîmes are competing in the top flight for the third straight year, but they had a narrow escape last term, finishing 18th when the season came to a premature halt. "We lost some important players and we didn't do a great job with the recruitment. The new players took some time to settle in. We just didn't feel very united. On the pitch, people were worrying more about their own statistics, and that's not what this club is about. The key to success at Nîmes Olympique has always been about collective strength."
"I want to be a senior player in the team"
Les Crocodiles have started a new chapter this season, with Jérôme Arpinon replacing Bernard Blaquart who had been head coach for seven years. Not that everything has changed: "Honestly, for me there isn"t a big difference. Last year, Jérôme was the one taking charge of training anyway. He used to talk to us before games, he brought something extra. Last season, we were running 9km a game, this year we are running 10, 11 or even 12km. We need to keep that up and move forward together."
At 27, Ferhat is ready to take on more responsibility and the skilful no. 10 is optimistic, refusing to even contemplate another relegation dogfight: "Why shouldn't we target a top ten finish? We're good enough. I like to have a challenge and I like to have responsibility. I want to be a senior player in the team. If I want to be one of the leaders, it means that if the game is 0-0 or 1-1, I need to step up and score the winning goal, or set it up. I'd like to play that role."