With five Ligue 1 Uber Eats goals in 2021 and a string of top defensive performances, Guillermo Maripan has played a major part in getting Monaco into the four-way title race.
The Chilean international centre-half took time to win over Niko Kovac, only making his first start of the season on December 16. Since then, the 26-year-old has been impossible to dislodge from the side and has weighed in with some unexpected goals, scoring four times in five games in a purple patch between Rounds 18 and 22 and also scoring in the Round 26 victory at Paris Saint-Germain.
Signed from Alaves on a five-year contract in August 2019, Maripan did not appear the answer to Monaco's defensive problems as he had an indifferent first campaign in the French game, featuring 20 times in Ligue 1 and scoring two goals.
Impossible to leave out
Axel Disasi's signing from Reims in the summer of 2020 saw Maripan reduced to a role as back-up to the new boy and club youth product Benoît Badiashile. The man from the Chilean capital Santiago knuckled down to his task and - with Diasi's form faltering - found a way back into the side. His defensive displays, not to mention, his goals, have made it inconceivable for Croatian coach Kovac to consider leaving him out.
Maripan started his career at Universidad Catolica in his native country but nothing he produced there or in Spanish football presaged the wonderful scoring streak that has made the Chilean the fourth-top scorer at the Principality club. No defender in the top five European leagues has scored more than Maripan in 2021.
The defender recently told As: "My toughest opponent in Ligue 1. Mbappé is a great player in my opinion. He's fast and a complete player. There's also Neymar, Depay… They are players who have a lot of quality and who are very dangerous in front of goal."
THE FIVE GOALS OF MARIPAN
LORIENT 2-5 MONACO
MONACO 3-0 ANGERS
MONACO 3-1 MARSEILLE
NANTES 1-2 MONACO
PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN 0-2 MONACO