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One to watch: Youcef Belaïli, the Algeria winger flying at Ajaccio

One to watch: Youcef Belaïli, the Algeria winger flying at Ajaccio

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Publish on 11/14 at 14:33 - S. TELFORD

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Youcef Belaïli already has three goals and two assists for AC Ajacccio and he only joined last month! What else is there to know about the Algeria international winger?

Belaïli swapped Brittany for Corsica in October after terminating his contract with Stade Brestois 29, and he has wasted no time at all in impressing fans at the Stade François Coty.

 

Belaïli's five goal-involvements have come at a rate of one every 64.6 minutes he has played for Olivier Pantaloni's side, and if L'ours secure Ligue 1 Uber Eats survival this season, the 30-year-old will be a large part of the reason why.

 

Back story:

 

Belaïli was born in Oran, Algeria's second-biggest city, in March 1992 and spent three years with local team MC Oran as a youngster before coming to prominence in neighbouring Tunisia, where he won the league with Espérance in 2012 and 2014.

 

He then returned to Algeria with USM Alger, becoming the league's highest-paid player, but his second spell at home was bittersweet. Belaïli broke into the Algeria squad in 2015 but he was banned for four years in 2016, later commuted to two, having been unaware of the contents of a hookah pipe he smoked.

 

A nomadic club spell followed, with Angers SCO, a second Espérance stay, Al Ahli in Saudi Arabia and Qatar SC all cropping up on Belaïli's footballing CV before he joined Brest in February, but his international career stabilised during this time, with an Africa Cup of Nations triumph in 2019 before last year's FIFA Arab Cup win.

 

Youcef Belaïli, Brest

 

Style of play:

 

Belaïli is a right-footed left winger who would rather drift inside with his control and guile than try to beat his man on the outside with his pace, or relative lack thereof.

 

He has 75 goals and 67 assists in 260 games in his club career, so he is just as happy to assist goals and he is score them himself, but the most exciting thing about Belaïli is his penchant for wondergoals, with his 40-yard strike for Algeria last year needing to be seen to be believed.


Current campaign:

 

Belaïli began the season at Brest, having signed a six-month deal in February, and he started the current campaign with les Pirates, assisting two of their three goals as they beat his one-time employers Angers 3-1 in Round 3. But he left Brittany in September for personal reasons.

 

Ajaccio signed him on a free transfer in October and the results since have been electrifying. Belaïli scored a pair of penalties before assisting Riad Nouri for the fourth in the 4-1 win over RC Strasbourg Alsace in Round 14, and followed that up with a goal and assist against FC Nantes on Sunday which would have made for another win had Moses Simon not rescued a 2-2 draw a minute from time.

 

Watch: Highlights of Ajaccio's 4-1 win over Strasbourg



What they said:

 

"He's incredibly comfortable on the ball. We knew his qualities and didn't get too hung up on some things that have been said about him. We explained to him what was expected, and he was in full agreement. When he's at his best physically, in two or three weeks, he'll bring us even more, and I hope he'll lead others to raise their level."

 

- Pantaloni on signing Belaïli last month,

 

"We played a great game against a Morocco side that plays good football. We thank Allah for this wonderful win. I was lucky and I managed to score a really nice goal. I dedicate it to my whole family.”

 

- Belaïli on that wondergoal against Morocco.