22 Midfielder Sassuolo (on loan from Internazionale) Algeria
2014 has been…
Without any explanation whatsoever, some of the headline news in Saphir Taïder’s year makes for pretty pleasant reading. He played in a World Cup with Algeria and secured a move to Southampton who are currently threatening to upset the apple cart in the Barclays Premier League with a blistering start to the season.
Things take a weird turn when you know that Taïder lasted less than three weeks under Ronald Koeman in England and didn’t play a single competitive minute for the Saints. Instead, he was sent back to Internazionale and has instead started the new season with Sassuolo. The wording of Southampton’s statement on Saphir sums up some of the concerns that refuse to leave him alone.
“The midfielder joined Saints for the 2014/15 campaign but, having failed to live up to the high levels of commitment expected of Southampton players that arrangement has been cut short by the club. Taïder, whose only first-team appearance came in the friendly against Bayer 04 Leverkusen last month, now returns to parent club Inter Milan.”
Despite the promise he showed and a couple of flashes in Serie A, Saphir Taïder is simply flattering to deceive and it ultimately boils down to the player.
Born in the south of France to a Tunisian father and an Algerian mother, Saphir had many options regarding his footballing nationality growing up. He represented France at three different under age levels before declaring for the now consistent World Cup qualifiers that are Algeria.
Having worked his way through the youth ranks of two local teams and then Grenoble Foot 38, he turned professional at the age of 17 and started to appear regularly for the Grenoble first team after the club were relegated to Ligue 2 for the 2010/11 campaign.
A second consecutive relegation followed for the team and with penalties for financial troubles being dished out to the club, the then French Under-19 midfielder sought pastures new in Italy with Bologna.
Constantly growing as a young player, a change of manager four months into his time in Italy actually saw Taïder feature more for the side that eventually finished the season in ninth position. At the same time as he started to appear more and more for Bologna, the national federations of both Algeria and Tunisia came calling as to his international services.
In February last year his decision to represent Algeria eventually became clear as he represented the Fennec Foxes in a World Cup qualifying match and scored the second goal in a 3-1 win. He’s been a regular feature for Algeria since that debut although he was left on the bench for two of their games at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
In August 2013, Internazionale snapped up the impressive midfielder but he’s struggled to establish himself at the San Siro and demand a first team place. That’s not entirely his own fault as there are problems around the club but it isn’t an excuse he can really use after the kerfuffle of this summer.
Neat and tidy on the ball, Saphir is a central midfielder that enjoys having the ball at his feet. After that, it’s hard to fully define what he’d like his game to be. He doesn’t create or score enough to be an attacking outlet and he isn’t disciplined enough to sit in front of the back four and offer himself as a shield in the face of persistent attacks.
There is a player in there; but he’s far from the finished article. When given time, either by a slack defence or from a dead-ball, Taïder has the eye to pick a pass but when under pressure he rarely beats the first man. And he doesn’t have enough strength on the ball to carry the ball past the opposition. When he does try to take someone on, it’s obvious to the naked eye that he is on his way to the floor before contact has been made in the hope of earning a free-kick. His driving runs lack commitment and even on the rare occasions that a free-kick is awarded, it kills the pace of the attack.
To have a loan period cancelled after barely a month is embarrassing and flags up real problems with the player. Taïder has the tools to be a very good footballer but he just needs reminding that a move to a club as big as Inter signifies that the hard work must begin for every young player. He isn’t going to have everything handed to him.
"A three-week loan spell saw him join the infamous Ali Dia in Southampton folklore, and he has been a solid addition to Sassuolo’s midfield. Scored a superb goal v Parma but not living up to his early promise." - Adam Digby
"Saphir Taïder has already provided two assists in Serie A this season for Sassuolo. He has never provided three in a single top-flight league season." - OptaJoe
D Could be doing a whole lot better
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