In this article we present profiles of three new footballers with much promise. After Yuri Tielemans, Monaco saw the additions of Diego Benaglio, Soualiho Meïté and Jordy Gaspar last week. Three different profiles, three stories to tell.
Danijel Subasic must love changes, as he will be looking at a new professional partnership. This is already the fifth since 2013. After Sergio Romero (2013-2014), Maarten Stekelenburg (2014-2015), Paul Nardi (2015-2016), Morgan De Sanctis (2016-2017) and here Diego Benaglio. With the exception of Nardi, all are experienced players and this Swiss is no exception. A 33-year-old, 34 in September, the Zurich native has had 61 selections with Switzerland and more than 320 matches with Wolfsburg, where he played since 2008, a charismatic personality of the “Loups”, he kept the captain’s armband when he had become a substitute, and advanced in the hierarchy by the Belgian Koen Casteels. Captain for 4 years, he was the assumed choice of his coach Dieter Hecking. Last year, Benaglio played mostly the Cup matches and, in fact, passed on the armband to the Brazilian Luiz Gustavo. “Diego is a prominent figure in the club”, stated Dieter Hecking. Yes, the Swiss is probably closer to his end of career than the beginning, but his experience, both in club and in selection, will make a good addition to the group. Benaglio is very much appreciated for his qualities and is perfectly capable of backing up the Croatian in case of physical problems or possible suspension. From his 38 European matches (14 from the Champions League) and 61 team selections from Switzerland, Benaglio has enough credibility to be a very good number two.
“Diego won several titles with Wolfsburg including the Bundesliga, he also played the Euro 2008, and World Cup 2010 and 2014 with Switzerland. He will bring all his experience to our group,” said Vadim Vasilyev, vice-president of the club, at the time of his signing.
He preferred his family to the national team
In the national team, he took over from the giant Pascal Zuberbühler after Euro 2008. More than sixty selections later, the advent of the young goalkeepers Yann Sommer (Borussia Mönchengladbach) and Roman Burki (Borussia Dortmund) led Benaglio to withdraw after the 2014 World Cup. His last game? An eighth-final lost in overtime against Argentina by Lionel Messi (0-1). At the time, Benaglio had justified his willingness to step back with the national team to better take care of his daughters. “I’m not so young anymore and now I want to concentrate more on my club. I also want to spend more time with my family,” he said in a statement at the end of the Brazilian World Cup. It will be remembered that in his last match with the national team, he attempted an acrobatic play on the Argentinian pitch on the last Swiss corner after 120 minutes of play. A man who had unleashed everything four years earlier during a mad match against Spain (victory of the Swiss 1 to 0). A madness that the Swiss press had called “the miracle from Durban”. A good guard but above all, a perfect captain.
During the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, he had organised a collective meeting of his own accord after a poor draw against Iceland. Renowned for being a discreet, reliable and skilful diplomat, Benaglio was a captain at heart. On Le Rocher, his mission will be to keep Danijel Subasic under pressure. The Croatian, the best goalkeeper of Ligue 1 last year, is never better than under the effect of competition. With Benaglio, he will have enough to do. And Monaco will once again count on very experienced doubles in the goals. This should allow the young player Loïc Badiashile, third goalkeeper of the club, to be loaned.
Soualiho Meïté: Making up for lost time
In 2013, Lille had spent 2.5 million euros to debut in Auxerre this promising 18-year-old. At the time, everyone was talking about this long-legged mid-fielder. Except that in the North, Soualiho Meïté was never going to win. “I was too sure of my talent. I thought the others were no better than me. I found an apology every time to explain my absence from the group. But when René Girard, then Hervé Renard and then Frédéric Antonetti, leave you to one side, you have to admit that something is wrong. I was at the bottom,” he said recently in an interview. It was then that the Belgian club of Zulte Waregem launched an 18 month loan in February 2016. In Belgium, Meïté would surpass everything, winning the Belgian Cup this year and finding, finally, his immense potential (58 matches, 2 goals). The Parisian by birth was on the up in the world, especially among the young. In U17, he has for teammates Benjamin Mendy and Tiémoué Bakayoko. At Zulte, he shone in a very well-run 4-3-3. Some see in him as the best midfielder of Belgium with Youri Tielemans, who also comes to Monaco. A big fan of Manchester United, the new start therefore took time. The time to understand that football is a real job, that invisible preparation is as important as training. As a solid player (1.88m, 90kg), Monaco is a perfect springboard for Meïté. And above all it is a tremendous opportunity to make up for lost time and, why not, to get closer to the Blues, he who has been described as a future star.
Jordy Gaspar: A new hope
He’s very young, at 20 years old. Gaspar is a pure product of Lyon training, whereas he was born in Saint-Priest-en-Jarez, a municipality of the Loire, located between the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium and the ASSE training centre at The Etrat.
Between Gaspar and OL, it is a story of the heart, as he joined the training of the Gones at the age of 10 years after a debut in Vaulxen-Velin. Initially, Gaspar played middle but very soon his trainers placed him on the right during the international tournament of Plomelin. On the right, he also made very interesting plays on the left side. Good technically, rather clever in the passing game, he has sometimes been compared to Jocelyn Angloma. Defensively, Gaspar’s performance is still to be perfected, but from a young age he seemed to impress his trainers. Champion of France U17 with OL, he was invited to the pre-season in Tignes last year before his debut in Ligue 1, in October, during a first tenure on the lawn of the Gym (he will play 90 minutes in Bastia in November) but above all a tenure in the Champions League against Sevilla. After Martial and Bahlouli, he is the third Gone recruited by the ASM since 2013. In Monaco, he will have stiff competition (Sidibé and Touré).
In the profiles of these new footballers it’s clear that they have promising future with Monaco.