RISING STAR: ZACHARIE BOUCHER
Zacharie Boucher joined Toulouse from second-division side Le Havre in January with a burgeoning reputation, but few expected the athletic young goalkeeper to make the step up quite so smoothly.
Toulouse's upturn in results in 2014 has coincided with the arrival of a bright new talent between the sticks, 22-year-old 'keeper Zacharie Boucher displacing Comoran 'keeper Ali Ahamada and helping the southwestern club rise to ninth place and the brink of European contention.
"I'm trying to adapt to two things," Boucher told The Ligue 1 Show on BeIN Sports. "To top flight football, which is much quicker and better quality, and also to a new system because I'm a young player and this is the first time I've played behind a 3-5-2 formation."
"It isn't easy to switch like that from second division football to the top tier," said coach Alain Casanova, who snared the talented youngster from Ligue 2 side Le Havre in the winter transfer window. "The players are far better in Ligue 1 and everything's much quicker: the attacks, the shots, the challenges. Everything's more intense."
Hampered by the inconsistent displays of Ali Ahamada during the first half of the season, Alain Casanova opted to bring in theman voted best goalkeeper in Ligue 2 last season.
With Boucher in goal, Toulouse have lost only 4 times in 12 outings, and the 22-year-old looks well capable of following in the footsteps of his role models.
"For me, (France and Tottenham's Hugo) Lloris is a fine goalkeeper, (OM's Steve) Mandanda too," he said. "But (Italy and Juventus' Gianluigi) Buffon is the best. I've always been inspired by him. He's had an amazing career and if I can achieve even a third of what he has achieved, it would be incredible."
Toulouse boss Casanova - a former goalkeeper himself - will be doing everything possible to ensure that his protégé keeps improving and starts to take on more responsibility.
"What I'd like now is to see him gain in confidence and really start showing his full potential, because I think he truly has huge ability."
Boucher will no doubt face a stiff test when Coupe de la Ligue runners-up Lyon come calling for their rescheduled Week 34 clash on Wednesday night, but if the youngster and his new teammates can get a win, they will be just seven points short of fifth place which, currently occupied by Lyon, would qualify Toulouse for a qualifying berth in next season's Europa League.