Africa, France, England. An odyssey that marked the emanation of a Premier League great; robust, fearless and an assassin on the turf, Abidjan’s very own, Didier Drogba.
A few years down the line, we are now graced with the emergence of another wayfaring wanderer of the labouring, yet opalescent footballing trail. Born in Eastern Benin’s largest city of Parakou, Steve Mounié moved to France at the age of 4. A Montpellier academy alumnus, Mounié spent the majority of his budding career in southern France before becoming the Huddersfield Town’s record signing in the summer of 2017, joining for a fee of £11.5m. One that seems a tad modest in comparison to the ever-soaring transfer fees of present day.
A fervent admirer of Didier Drogba, The Terriers’ new marksman will hope to reap a fraction of the success the Ivorian enjoyed in England, and there isn’t much standing in his way. Still just 22 years old, there are naturally gaps that need plugging, his questionable-at-times shot selection and his edge in front of goal at times, for instance. Fortunately, he has all the time in the world to develop, grow and refine his game as a striker and is at a fitting club, under the right manager, to do so. Described as being open-minded and hungry to learn by David Wagner, the boy from Benin has the arsenal of attributes required, on and off the field, to be a success. Always-willing, his tireless effort for his team coupled with his excellent ability makes prosperity in West Yorkshire look propitious for Steve Mounié.
Standing at 6’3, Mounié utilizes his daunting frame as a foundation for his ever-expanding style. Spending most of the game with his back to goal, the imposing centre-forward uses brute strength to hold play up, opening pockets of opportunity to embed his teammates into the game with nifty flicks, lay-offs and precise short passing. He is the focal point of his team. This knack allows him to initiate a move and spin off of his marker to then go on and play an active part in combinations in and around areas that imperil opposition defences.
Another hallmark that succours this hold-up/target man style is undoubtedly the sharpest blade in Steve Mounié’s drawer, his aerial ability. With a leap that is arguably unparalleled in the Premier League, the former Montpellier man is a Herculean nuisance for defenders coupled with the job of keeping tabs on him. Mounié stealthily lurks across the advanced areas on the field, constantly prowling and covertly weaving in and around markers. This dements defenders and helps him pull away from their secure eye. Here, he’ll patiently wait to be fed with aerial passes from deep, which is when he’ll pounce. He leaves impuissant defenders chasing his shadow as he towers above, simultaneously hurling his wingers into promising positions further down the flanks with calculated flick-ons. From here, he can proceed to make piercing runs into the box, where he uses his in-game adroitness and shrewd movement to drop back towards the penalty spot. By doing this, he creates attacking space in which he can generate power on his headed efforts, emphatically finishing off sharp moves with vigorous aerial prowess. An aesthetic melange of brains and brawn.
To provide some insight into just how much of an aerial force he is, he won the most aerial duels in the 16/17 Ligue 1 season, emerging victorious in an astounding 293 duels. Despite his formidable frame, Mounié also carries refreshingly tidy feet and surprising speed, making him a substantial threat on the counter and in 1v1 situations.
Mounié has already laid the first stones in his quest to become a Premier League luminary and is bound to be a player that the Huddersfield Town faithful embrace, with incandescent alacrity.