PARIS (AP) — Monaco’s best piece of business in the recent transfer window was resisting the temptation to sell proven goal scorer Wissam Ben Yedder.
Monaco’s reputation as a selling club has been reinforced in recent years by hugely lucrative deals. Among them, Kylian Mbappé’s headline-grabbing transfer to Paris Saint-Germain for 180 million euros ($210 million) and Anthony Martial to Manchester United in a deal worth 44.7 million pounds ($57.8 million).
But this time Monaco could well benefit from not cashing in on Ben Yedder, a highly skilled and clinical finisher who at 29 years old is entering his peak years. He has scored 22 goals in 36 games overall since joining Monaco from Sevilla, having netted 70 in 138 for the Spanish club.
Champions League winner Bayern Munich, runner-up PSG and Spanish giant Barcelona were reportedly prepared to pay 40 million euros ($47 million) for Ben Yedder, the French league’s joint top scorer last season as he finished level on 18 goals with PSG’s Kylian Mbappé.
After a slow start to this campaign under new coach Niko Kovac, Ben Yedder has three goals in the past three games ahead of Sunday’s home match against Montpellier.
Ben Yedder was too isolated in attack at the start of the campaign, so Kovac pushed new signing Kevin Volland further up to take some pressure off the striker, freeing him to better use his speed and movement.
“His understanding with Kevin is getting better and better,” Kovac said recently. “Obviously he wants to be the best striker, the top scorer in Ligue 1 and wants to play at Euro 2021.”
Ben Yedder’s return to form also saw him provide assists for Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann in France’s 7-1 rout of Ukraine last Wednesday. Ben Yedder is unlikely to be a starter at next year’s European Championship, given the wealth of attacking options at France’s disposal.
However, coach Didier Deschamps views him as a valuable player to bring on because, in addition to cool finishing, he is excellent at keeping the ball in tight spaces and unlocks defenses with his passing.
So this season could work out well for both Monaco and Ben Yedder.
If the goals keep flowing, 2017 Champions League semifinalist Monaco will strengthen its bid to qualify for European competition and doing so could cement Ben Yedder’s place in France’s Euro 2021 squad.
The 49-year-old Kovac is a former Croatia captain and decided to give Ben Yedder the captaincy.
That could be a shrewd move by Kovac, following a reportedly difficult time managing Bayern Munich players like forward Thomas Mueller, center half Jerome Boateng and winger Ivan Perisic.
After he coached Bayern to a league and cup double in 2019, the club fired him last November following a run of poor form.
Players did not express themselves publicly about their relationship with Kovac. But former Bayern president Uli Hoeness told German broadcaster ZDF in November that “there were definitely currents within the team which wanted the coach to be gone, and because of that the leadership reacted appropriately.”
So giving Ben Yedder the armband perhaps keeps Kovac onside with Monaco’s best player.
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