Yann M’Vila 22 Midfielder Rennes
One year ago, Yann M’Vila appeared to be a young midfielder with the footballing world at his feet. Established in the French national team at the young age of 21 and with a long line of potential suitors ready to take him off Rennes’ hands at the conclusion of Euro 2012; M’Vila looked set to fulfil his footballing potential before most have had a look in.
He is a player that possesses every skill required to be the stand-out defensive midfielder of his generation. On the face of it; that doesn’t sound like the sexiest of propositions for any player but defensive midfield is an area that has changed dramatically in the last few seasons. It’s no longer about a player throwing their weight around or constantly scurrying across the park to break up play. An elegant balance to combine shielding the defence with setting attacks in motion is required and M’Vila, at his best, strikes it perfectly.
Having joined Rennes in 2004, Yann was quickly identified as future star of the club. In the first four years, he played a key role in the youth side claiming a number of important trophies before signing his first professional contract with the club.
By the time M’Vila made his first-team debut in August 2009, everyone around the club were vividly aware that they had a special talent on their hands. Few that had aided his development were surprised that by the end of that first season in and around the Rennes first team, he was already in contention for the full French national side. Raymond Domenech included him in his preliminary squad of 30 players for the World Cup in South Africa. It’s probably to his benefit that he wasn’t a part of that ill-fated trip.
The incredible rise continued into the following season. He starred for Rennes in the league as they set themselves up for a fine sixth-place finish as well as establishing himself in Laurent Blanc’s France team. M’Vila, and others, were “clean” of any involvement in what happened at Knysna as France crashed out of the World Cup and as such, was seen as an important part of the “new France” team.
Crucially for the player, he began to show real signs that he was developing into a really mature footballer. His biggest weakness, impulsive mistakes, had been the downfall of his early years but they were cut out of his game more and more.
Unfortunately for Yann, his career has constantly been blotted by a string of misdemeanours. Just as the furore of one seems to die down, he gets involved again where he shouldn’t. While on international duty, he was robbed by a woman that he met in a nightclub and took back to his hotel room.
Following a surprising defeat in the Coupe de France with Rennes, M’Vila had a run-in with some angry supporters and then a few weeks later, he was accused of hitting a 17 year-old and held by the police for 24 hours.
Following each occasion, M’Vila’s form dipped but not enough to warrant a shunning by either club or country. They were the honest mistakes of a young, impressionable man. Eventually, after the attention of each situation disappeared; M’Vila returned to his usual self.
During the Euro 2012 quarter-final against Spain, M’Vila was substituted by Blanc in favour of Olivier Giroud. The midfielder wasn’t pleased with the decision and stormed past both Giroud and Blanc on his way to the bench. It warranted a warning from the French Football Federation and instruction to watch his behaviour.
Unfortunately, his latest off-the-field antics will have repercussions for the next two seasons and should prove harder for the player to move past. Having started the season out of the Rennes first-team, M’Vila has yet to be called up for international duty by Didier Deschamps. Instead, he was called upon by Erick Mombaerts for the under-21s crucial play-off with Norway.
Following a 1-0 win in the home leg, M’Vila was praised by Mombaerts for his influence on the squad; using his experience with the senior team to help the others around him. However, on the Saturday night in-between the two legs, M’Vila and four team-mates headed for a night out in Paris. They made the near 250 mile round-trip (two hours or so each way) from their base in Le Havre for the glitz and glamour of the capital. We’ve all been there. There is nothing quite like the temptation of a few beers on what should be a school night although the effort does seem a little excessive.
France crashed to a 5-3 defeat in the away leg (three days later) and as such, M’Vila and his cohorts, Chris Mavinga, Wissam Ben Yedder, Antoine Griezmann and M’Baye Niang were reprimanded by the FFF. Their night out wasn’t to blame for the defeat but in light of the under-21 side letting a glorious position slip; it didn’t help the players’ case.
As M’Vila was seen as the ring leader and the French football authorities are getting ahead of themselves with punishments of late, the midfielder was banned from international team duty for 20 matches or approximately 25 matches. Ultimately, he’s out of contention to go to the World Cup in Brazil, assuming France qualify.
The punishment is far too harsh, as brilliantly argued by Andrew Gibney here, but it’s something that continues to remind interested managers that the biggest thing holding the midfielder back right now is his attitude.
On the pitch, M’Vila has everything in his game to be a star of world football. Great passing ability and the awareness to find space in one of the most congested areas of the pitch, it’s unsurprising that Arsenal were for a long time seen as the favourites to take him away from Ligue 1. His ability to avoid the lure of going forward and remain smartly positioned is something the Gunners could do with this season and his natural leadership skills mark him out as a man capable of wearing the captain’s armband at the Emirates. Yes, we’re aware we’ve pigeon-holed him as the new Patrick Vieira. Trust us, it works.
The fact that M’Vila remains a Rennes player tells you all you need to know about where the interest has gone. The potential line of suitors that were around this time last year either lost interest or lowered the price they were willing to pay. Arsenal are said to have completely cooled their interest in a player that they spent over 18 months watching.
Right now, there is too much nonsense surrounding the player to tempt the very biggest clubs to take a chance on him. Rennes are unlikely to let such an asset leave at a cheap price even if isn’t playing nearly as much as he has in previous years.
We have no little doubt that M’Vila could anchor any midfield in any league in the world if he got his head down, worked hard and played as well as he has previously shown. If he uses his time away from international football to his advantage, he can knuckle down and ensure that when the next World Cup is out of the way all is forgotten.
It might just be that Yann needs a change of scenery to do that.
“The talent is there, unfortunately it seems to be his attitude that isn't quite right. Needs guidance under the right manager.” – Andrew Gibney (French Football Weekly)
D A move might just be what is needed to get things back on track. Won’t be going as high as everyone originally expected