RISING STAR: JEREMIE BOGA
At 19, Jérémie Boga is catching the eye this season. Alongside fellow teenager Ousmane Dembélé, the striker on loan from Chelsea has helped Rennes become Ligue 1's third-most prolific side.
Born and raised in Marseille, Boga's talent was spotted at a young age by his local club, ASPTT.
"This is where Jérémie started out," ASPTT Marseille chairman Jean-François Verlaque told The Ligue 1 Show on beIN SPORTS as he gave a tour of Boga's first club. "He played here right next to the Stade Vélodrome. The first time he came here, he was tiny. He dribbled past eight players, put the ball in the little goal and did a backflip just like the ones Djibril Cisse was doing at that time. He was five years old!"
Boga was instantly earmarked for a big future and by the tender age of ten, he was already on a lot of shopping lists.
"He was a prodigy; he was able to win games on his own. He really stood out for his age - he was the best player from the 1997 generation," recalled ASPTT Marseille sporting director Franck Borelli. "Auxerre, Bordeaux, Monaco Lyon, Lens, PSG... his mother was inundated with calls from all these clubs."
A Marseille fan, Jérémie trained in the shadows of the Stade Vélodrome yet, amazingly, he was ignored by Olympique de Marseille - and picked up by Chelsea.
"When you're 12, you don't really realise what's happening," admitted Boga. "The move surprised a lot of people - the critics said I'd moved abroad too young. But my family and I didn't pay much attention to that and we've got no regrets today. When you get to train with John Terry and (Branislav) Ivanovic - really strong guys - you get better. It's a childhood dream really."
Boga returned to his homeland last summer, but he hasn't forgotten his English education - and still drives a right-hand drive car.
"I'm used to it now," he smiled. "I got my licence in the UK, so I'm used to this car."
Boga has been used mainly as a super-sub this term, starting only five times in Ligue 1. But he has chipped in with two important goals, and while he remains determined to succeed at Chelsea, Rennes are keen to renew the youngster's loan deal next season.
"Right now he is still learning his trade, and that's logical given his age. But he has already forced his way in to our attacking plans," revealed Rennes coach Rolland Courbis. "As far as I'm concerned, he's in the same boat as Dembélé. He has to continue his development over the next 18 months, two years. I think it'd be good for him and for Rennes if he played another season here."