Belfast Telegraph

Five things you need to know about Liverpool target Nabil Fekir

By Adam McKendry

1. He doesn't like being told he's not good enough

Like most of us, admittedly, but Fekir has a track record.

The Lyon-born star started his career in Lyon's Academy, but was released by the club after being told he wouldn't make it as a professional. Rather annoyed by that, he moved to local club Saint-Priest where his performances attracted scouts from across the country to see if he was worth signing.

When he became 18, Lyon's bitter rivals Saint-Etienne made an offer for him, but Fekir turned it down in the hopes that Lyon would change their minds and re-sign him, even going as far as publicly saying he wanted his former club to admit they had made a mistake in releasing him in the first place.

While they didn't openly admit it, the fact Lyon did indeed re-sign him in 2011 said enough.

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Nabil Fekir

2. He's not popular in Saint-Etienne

Sure, he was just a kid when he turned them down the first time, but Fekir hasn't exactly done anything to heal those wounds.

Signing for Lyon is enough to make you Public Enemy No.1 in Saint-Etienne, but Fekir decided to take that a step further when the two sides clashed in Ligue 1 last November. To put it into context, Fekir had just been named captain of Lyon following the sale of Maxime Gonalons and was considered to be a senior figure in the squad.

However, the 24-year old showed a considerable lack of restraint when the two rivals clashed at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, with the visitors racing into a 4-0 lead and, when Fekir added a fifth, he took off his shirt and turned it around to brandish his name and number to the outraged home support, who invaded the pitch in protest.

The players had to be taken off the pitch while riot police calmed things down.

3. He nearly didn't play for France

Born to Algerian parents, Fekir initially declared his allegiance to Algeria back in 2015, despite making several appearances for France's Under-21 side before that.

When he was named in an Algerian squad for friendlies against Oman and Qatar in March of 2015, it looked like that would be that, however at the last minute he received a late call-up to the French squad for their friendlies against Brazil and Denmark, and quickly switched his allegiance to the country of his birth instead.

Despite missing Euro 2016 through injury, you would still say that 11 caps and one World Cup call-up later, he made the right call.

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Philippe Coutinho

4. He's not a like-for-like replacement for Coutinho

They're similar, yes, but like-for-like isn't quite correct.

Both are skillful players, both are able to set-up goals with dazzling footwork and dead-weight passes and both like to roam in that second striker or No.10 role. But where Coutinho would give you lung-busting effort at both ends of the pitch, Fekir is far more suited to staying in the opposition's half.

Coutinho was happy to be anywhere on the pitch, Fekir will focus on making the magic happen in the final third and can slot in at striker as well if necessary (although you'd certainly expect Sadio Mane to hold that role next season). That's not to say he's lazy, because he's not, but don't expect him to be of any significant use to Liverpool on the defensive side of the game.

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Zinedine Zidane, three times FIFA World Player of the Year

5. He's been described as the new Zinedine Zidane

He'll lead Real Madrid to three consecutive Champions Leagues and then leave.

Alright, maybe not that part, but that is high praise indeed when you consider what high esteem Zidane was held in. And many have thought Fekir could mature into a player as good and as influential for his country as Zizou was in his prime - playing perfect passes for team-mates, seeing things that others can't and doing outrageous skills that set him apart from others.

Zidane himself is a fan. "Nabil is an incredible player. He impressed me technically," he commented in 2015.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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