Nicolas Isimat-Mirin 22 Defender AS Monaco France
2013 has been…
A lesson learned the hard way. Defender Nicolas Isimat-Mirin, born in a Paris suburb into Haitian heritage and a 2007 Clairefontaine graduate, started the 2012/13 season well for Valenciennes and, despite a slight slump, was still regarded by the end of it to have been one of their best players. After signing professional terms there after spending a couple of years with Rennes, Isimat-Mirin looked to be finding his feet.
The better side of his form last season didn’t go unnoticed. Links to Fulham, Liverpool and Newcastle United last winter seemed to indicate an imminent move to the Premier League, but the youngster remained in Northern France and had a difficult time in the absence of Gil, a more experienced central defender who departed for Corinthians in his native Brazil at the start of 2013.
Nevertheless, the interest remained from elsewhere and it was a club inside France – sort of – that took the plunge. After he played in 29 Ligue 1 games for VAFC in 2012/13, AS Monaco spent a fraction of their post-promotion transfer budget on a €4m fee for Isimat-Mirin. Offered a contract that runs until the summer of 2017, the move appeared a no-brainer for a young and ambitious player.
However, he is yet to play for Monaco, looking on from the bench every week as Ricardo Carvalho and Eric Abidal continue to forge a partnership in the heart of the Monaco defence. There is no doubt that Isimat-Mirin needs to play football; it’s the only way he’s going to iron out the significant creases in his game, not least some individual errors that, along with the youthfulness of his full backs, probably explain why Claudio Ranieri is reluctant to suck it and see.
He does a lot to a high standard. He is physically strong, even a little rough at times, and stays on his feet and jockeys well. He’s competent in the air and his positioning is usually good. He’s rangy and quick, instinctively a ball-playing central defender who simply needs game time to learn when to do and try certain things, and when to keep it simple. He’d be well advised to give the ball to a team-mate faster, as he appears too keen to travel forwards with it at times. It looks great when it works.
Still, the potential is there and it is likely to be stunted by a lack of football. It’s a stall that Isimat-Mirin can ill afford. Highly rated throughout his time at Rennes, finding some form for Valenciennes was a welcome boon in the face of a collapsed international career. Isimat-Mirin has played just three times for the Under-21s despite starting in 2011. His last game for them was in February 2012.
Isimat-Mirin is light years away from the French national team and unless he gets some playing time that distance is only going to increase. Fortunately for him, Carvalho and Abidal are both well into their 30s and, as a regular bench-warmer, the youngster is bound to get the call sooner rather than later. When he does, his priority has to be to step up and tie up the loose ends of his game.
If he can establish himself in the Monaco side or, let’s face it, elsewhere, then 2014 could be a positive year after a big decision in 2013 that he might now be regretting. If he can put together some minutes and some form, who knows how much he might improve in a short space of time? The challenge for now is simply to get onto the field.
"Struggled after Brazilian centre back partner Gil left in January. Exposed his weaknesses. Monaco took a gamble and he's yet to make an appearance, needs to be playing week in, week out." - Andrew Gibney, French Football Weekly
"Last season, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin made 208 clearances in Ligue 1. He was the youngest player to make more than 200." - Opta
D Not a player to write off, but a shocking year despite a glamour move