One to watch: Yacine Adli
Get to know Yacine Adli, Girondins de Bordeaux's midfield maestro playing well beyond his years.
Paulo Sousa had put together a fine blend of youth and experience this season. At one end of the spectrum is France and Arsenal FC legend Laurent Koscielny, 34, signed at the start of the season to shore up the defence; at the other, teenage stars, none shining brighter than Paris Saint-Germain youth product Yacine Adli.
Signed during last season's winter transfer window, Adli only started two games for Les Girondins in the league last season, but Sousa has trusted the 18-year-old this term, giving him seven starts and 12 appearances in total. Born six months after midfield enforcer Aurélien Tchouaméni, Adli has been the youngest first-team regular this season.
Providing the silk to Tchouaméni's steel, Adli has scored three and laid on another three this term, giving him a hand in a goal every 110 minutes he has played, but what else is there to know about the France under-20 starlet? Read on…
Watch: Adli's fine opening goal in the 3-1 loss to Marseille
Born in Vitry-sur-Seine in the southeastern suburbs of Paris into a family of Algerian extraction, Adli first turned out for US Villejuif before being picked up by Paris Saint-Germain soon after his 13th birthday.
A tall but svelte attacking midfielder who now stands at 6'1", Adli's progress through the PSG's youth teams was swift, and he was handed his Ligue 1 Conforama debut for the champions in May 2018, replacing Christopher Nkunku in a goalless draw at Stade Malherbe Caen, at the tender age of 17 years, nine months and 21 days old.
With first-team opportunities not forthcoming in the capital - those seven minutes against Caen were the extend of the young midfielder's first-team outings before another half-season in the reserves - Adli made the five-hour journey down the west coast to French wine country on the final day of last winter's transfer window, and hasn't looked back.
At international level, Adli is eligible to play for Algeria due to his parentage, but has so far only turned out for France at youth level, making his debut for Les Espoirs at under-16 level in 2015 and representing them a total of 49 times - scoring 16 goals on the way - across every level up to under-20 since.
Style of play:
With his quick feet, willingness to use his weaker left foot to beat his man and create space, ability to play between the lines, and Algerian heritage, comparisons with French footballing great Zinedine Zidane are almost too obvious, but it is difficult not to be put in mind of the Real Madrid manager in his playing pomp when watching Adli.
Adli's ease on the ball and balance despite his height are other similar characteristics, as is his habit of shooting early, giving the goalkeeper no time to set himself to make the save. All three of Adli's goals this season have been scored from outside the box, and while he may still have to work on his physical strength, the excitement at where Adli might take his career is understandable.
The similarities between Adli and Zidane (pictured) are striking.
With Nicolas de Préville proving Bordeaux's most potent attacking force this season with five goals and three assists from a withdrawn position tucked behind a centre-forward - invariably Jimmy Briand - Adli has had to share his playing time perhaps more than he would have liked, although his seven starts still represent more than twice as many as he enjoyed last season, and we're not even at Christmas.
Adli only got his first starting berth in Week 6 - a 2-2 draw against Stade Brestois 29 in which he assisted Pablo's equaliser - but he has shown plenty to suggest that the team could be built around him as the season wears on. Bordeaux may have lost their European race six-pointer at Olympique de Marseille last Sunday, but his stunning opener in the 3-1 defeat suggests he also has a flair for the big occasion.
What you didn't know:
Yacine's middle name is Zinedine, and it's no accident that his game has come to resemble the former AS Cannes, Bordeaux, Juventus and Real Madrid midfielder maestro's. "I love everything about him," Adli explained to ligue1.com. "Both the player and the person. I loved the player and now I like the coach. He's a guy with a lot of charisma and character who has achieved a lot. I really admire him."
Adli has not yet pursued wearing the number 10 or 5 shirts, though - number 19 has thus far been his favourite with Bordeaux. The inspiration? Current Bordeaux teammate Briand - also born in Vitry-sur-Seine - who made his first professional steps with that number on his jersey.
All three of Adli's goals this season have been pearlers, but perhaps the best was his second against Amiens SC in Week 7. Adli earned a free-kick on the edge of the box on the stroke of half-time and stepped up to convert an unstoppable shot, with as much swerve as power, into the far top corner, leaving home goalkeeper Régis Gurtner with no chance.
Watch: Adli's stunning free-kick scored against Amiens
What he said:
"My favourite thing to do on the pitch is to give the final pass, to create goals. That's really what gives me the most pleasure."
- On his style of play
"I played the violin for three or four years but I've forgotten a lot. I don't really remember it now but there are videos of me playing in the conservatory. My father encouraged me to play music from a young age. I listen to songs in French, Spanish and Italian."
- On his interests away from football
What they said:
"Bordeaux are delighted to have signed Yacine Adli from PSG on a four-and-a-half-year deal. He was seduced by the Bordeaux project and the club are delighted to have such a French prospect in our squad."
- Bordeaux on acquiring Adli last winter
"He's got the talent to go all the way. He's a good boy, he's got a feel for the game and the right mentality. He can do things that many others cannot."
- Former youth national team manager Lionel Rouxel