Florian Sotoca: Lens' Experienced Head

Florian Sotoca: Lens' Experienced Head

Publish on 03/09 at 07:00 - E. DEVIN


The veteran striker has been an ever-present for the northern club, becoming a key figure under Franck Haise. Learn more about his journey and his importance to the team in our latest profile.

Ligue 1 has had its fair share of wily veteran attackers making the difference in recent years. Burak Yilmaz added balance to Lille’s title-winning season, Radamel Falcao chipped in more than a few goals under the radar for AS Monaco in 2017, and even in the current season, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has taken up the mantle for Olympique de Marseille, following on from Alexis Sánchez.

But players like these have a common thread in that they have played at the highest level. Even Yilmaz, who spent most of his career in Turkey, appeared more than sixty times in Europe. But this season, one of the league’s form teams in recent months has been Racing Club de Lens, and Le Sang et Or have a veteran striker of their own making the difference, albeit one who has reached Ligue 1 via an entirely different path.

33 year old Florian Sotoca had played just a single minute of Ligue 1 football prior to Lens’ promotion in 2020, with Montpellier in 2016. He left that summer to play with Grenoble, then in the fourth tier, developing a reputation as a workmanlike presence, good in the air and a willing provider, but never a striker who had serious prospects of a professional career, given he was already 26.

However, successive promotions with the eastern club, as well as an impressive campaign in 2018/19, which saw him score 12 goals and add five assists, had him catch the eye of Lens. An ever-present in their promotion campaign, he added a further eight goals, but with the arrivals of Ignatius Ganago and Arnaud Kalimuendo, it appeared his chances would be limited.

That was hardly the case, though, and even as his attacking teammates have cycled in and out around him — witness the emergence of David Pereira Da Costa and the singular season played by Loïs Openda, Sotoca’s workrate and physicality continue to make him the true focal point for Franck Haise’s gung-ho style — and the same is true this season with his burgeoning relationship with Elye Wahi.

With 5 goals and as many assists, this is shaping up to be another strong season for Sotoca, and even if these statistics underwhelm compared to the play of the likes of Wahi or Openda last season, he retains the full confidence of his manager.

Speaking to the press earlier this season, Haise was quick to underscore Sotoca’s importance, stating that it wasn’t something measurable by goals or assists, "I never talk about stats in this way. I am always looking at different objectives, that is to say, to be as possible in the opponents’ penalty area, or to link play, to start actions. Flo', he has stats, he scores goals, and this is important, but there is everything else as to what he brings in balance, in energy, in creation, in terms of example.”

With a massive match in terms of its European implications against Stade Brestois this evening, fans of Le Sang et Or will be hoping for more of that energy as they hope to finish in the top five once more this season.

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