Monaco captain Wissam Ben Yedder has rediscovered his touch in front of goal at just the right time as the Principality club continue their title charge.
The French international forward came on early for the injured Stevan Jovetic at Angers in Round 34 and scored a marvellous 79th-minute winner to move onto 18 goals for the Ligue 1 Uber Eats season, equalling his tally from the truncated 2019-2020 campaign, when he finished as joint-top scorer in the division with Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappé. A proven, ultra-reliable scorer, he now has 99 goals from 215 Ligue 1 matches.
The Ben Yedder paradox is that the last five goals he's netted have come in a substitute's role with Monaco boss Niko Kovac having preferred to start Stevan Jovetic in recent weeks. No player has scored more off the bench in the five major European leagues this season.
Ben Yedder: "Give my best in every minute I play"
Following his clipped finish over Angers goalkeeper Paul Bernardoni, a diplomatic Ben Yedder said: "Whether the coach starts me or not, the most important thing is to show my solidarity with the team and to give my all for the collective. He makes his choices. Me, what I can do, is to give my best in every minute I play."
A starting role beckons for Ben Yedder in the massive home match against Olympique Lyonnais on Sunday evening as the club attempt to record their 16th win in 20 league outings. The injury-plagued Jovetic is out with the calf injury that forced him off against Angers and so Ben Yedder will have a chance to prove to Kovac that he can perform when selected from the outset.
The Croatian coach - following Ben Yedder's double off the bench in the 3-0 home win against Dijon in Round 32 - joked: "He's going to stay on the bench until the end of the season because he scores! No! I try to be fair to the players. I'm very happy for Wissam, who scored two goals. He is our captain and he's very important to the squad. I try to be fair to everybody. It's also good for him to come on towards the end of games. Often, in the second half things open up a bit more and the opposition lose concentration."
"The time when I had covid wasn't easy and it's slowed me down a bit"
So just how did the former Sevilla and Toulouse hotshot end up being the division's most luxurious substitute? The attacker contracted coronavirus while on France duty last November and admitted in January: "The time when I had covid wasn't easy and it's slowed me down a bit."
Statistically, Ben Yedder has been dependent on penalties to keep his figures respectable for a finisher of his quality. Nine of his 18 league goals this season have come from the spot - to go with two misses - and four of the seven goals he managed in between testing positive for coronavirus and the first of his 'supersub' goals at home to Metz in early April were penalties.
Kovac has only given Ben Yedder the full 90 minutes on three occasions since the striker's illness and since mid-March has preferred to give the poacher his minutes at the end of matches rather than at the start. Sunday's game against Lyon is likely to see Ben Yedder start for only the second time in six league games and he will be determined to prove to the former Bayern Munich boss that he deserves to stay in the team, with his goals set to be crucial to Monaco's prospects in the thrilling four-way title race.