One to Watch: Jeff Reine-Adélaïde
By D. Crossan
France Under-21s captain Jeff Reine-Adélaïde has come on in leaps and bounds in 2019 and Olympique Lyonnais are becoming increasingly reliant on their big money summer signing from Angers.
At 21, Reine-Adélaïde is making good on the promise that saw him make his Arsenal debut as a 17-year-old in January 2016. The versatile midfielder's 18 months at Angers under Stéphane Moulin's tutelage saw him revive a career that had stalled and his displays there convinced OL to part with an initial 25 million euros to secure his services in August 2019.
Born in Champigny-sur-Marne on January 17, 1998 Reine-Adélaïde was on Lens' books and was an unused substitute against Metz in April 2015. A move to Arsenal followed but first-team opportunities were few and far between and an injury late in the 2016-2017 season hardly helped matters.
After six months without a competitive match for the Premier League club, Reine-Adélaïde joined Angers on loan at the end of the winter transfer window. That switch became permanent the following summer and the attacking midfielder really flourished once Moulin began using him as a playmaker for the final third of the campaign.
Lyon's offer of 25 million euros plus a potential 2.5 million euros in bonuses and 15% of any future profit proved irresistible to Angers, whose annual budget is around about 30 million euros.
Style of play:
A natural athlete, Reine-Adélaïde is an elegant mover and has quick feet. Often used wide in his career, his best position is probably as a number 10 or as a wide playmaker. Reine-Adélaïde has the ability to glide between the lines but needs to add greater end product to his undoubted skills. He managed only four league goals in 46 appearances for Angers.
Reine-Adélaïde scored against Bordeaux in his only Angers appearance before his transfer to OL. A gentleman's agreement ensured he didn't start his new club career against Angers and so his OL debut came against Bordeaux at the end of August as part of a three-man midfield.
An impressive first Champions League appearance followed on September 17 against Zenit St-Petersburg, while Reine-Adélaïde has also caught the eye for France Under-21s, scoring twice against Georgia in mid-November. Buoyed by that, he netted his first OL league goal in the win against Nice in Week 14 before being the collateral damage of an early substitution required after Fernando Marçal was sent off.
Reine-Adélaïde has shown his technical ability and potential at OL yet still needs to convince new boss Rudi Garcia that he deserves to be an integral member of the side.
Though not spectacular, Reine-Adélaïde's strike against Nice signalled the way forward for the 21-year-old. After linking well with Martin Terrier, he carried on his run and took advantage of a lucky break before guiding a shot into the corner of the net.
What he said:
"I don't let my head get affected by numbers. Today I'm worth 25 million euros but if tomorrow I'm no good on the pitch then that counts for nothing. I chose Lyon because I think it's the best project for me. I know a lot of the players from the Under-21s and that comforted me in my decision. I spoke to Houssem Aouar and asked him what the club was like. He had only good things to say
"I've always wanted to play in the midfield. At Angers the plan was always for me to play as a winger in order to compensate for what I hadn't worked on as much at Arsenal, like my defensive work. I'm a player who takes risks, who can carry the ball, play with his team-mates and above all break through the lines."
Speaking to L'Equipe TV in early September 2019 after joining Olympique Lyonnais from Angers
What they said:
"In the absence of Houssem Aouar and Memphis Depay, Jeff is the technical leader in my team. He's in the process of showing that he can break through barriers. When I came in, I told him that a player such as him needed to be capable of providing assists and scoring goals. He's starting to do both of those things and that's very good for us."
OL coach Rudi Garcia, speaking ahead of the Champions League game at Zenit St-Petersburg in November 2019
"There was emotion when Jeff left. In the last two and a half months of last season Jeff showed all his talent and we don't yet know the level he'll be able to reach. I think that's what got everyone excited. We have had to mourn his departure."
Angers coach Stéphane Moulin, speaking after Reine-Adélaïde was sold to OL in mid-August 2019