The list of greater goalscorers than Wissam Ben Yedder this year is a brief one, with the Monaco striker enjoying a golden run of form.
The list of players to have scored more league goals this year than Wissam Ben Yedder is a brief and exclusive one. Just six players make it, together with the all-star list such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in addition to Ciro Immobile, whose 10 penalties have significantly contributed to the Lazio striker leading the race to the European Golden Boot with 27 goals.
The Monaco hitman, meanwhile, finds himself locked in a struggle with Kylian Mbappe on 18 goals at the summit of Ligue 1’s goalscoring standings.
Ben Yedder, however, has discovered the odds stacked against him all season, playing in a misfiring Monaco side that was a disappointing ninth in France’s top-flight once the coronavirus outbreak necessitated the halt in hostilities.
His goalscoring prowess has never been a mystery, and therefore it’s astonishing that he’s playing for a relatively modest club while another top Golden Boot contenders are duking it out for national supremacy in addition to their own individual shot at glory.
Really, the 29-year-old can lay claim to being the most underrated goalscorer now playing at the elite level.
After amassing 70 goals for Sevilla, he moved for a comparatively modest $40 million (#37.1m/$43.2m) to Monaco at the summer amid tentative interest from Barcelona, who has to be regretting missing out on such a comparative bargain, especially given their injury problems up this year.
Talking about the attention from the Catalans to Onze, he explained: “Last summer, as an instance, Barca took advice about me a few times. This winter, a deal could have been done. It did not happen, that is how it was, it would not be done.
“It shows that I am doing a fantastic job. I remained professional and concentrated on my performances with Monaco. When Barca arrived, I took it as a bonus, as a bonus.”
Ben Yedder’s narrative is one of improbable success. He was originally noted for his art in futsal as far as in the 11-a-side game and it wasn’t until he went professional shortly before his 20th birthday with Toulouse he gave the indoor game up.
But he says it attracted him qualities he has translated on the big pitch.
“It gave me a whole lot,” he said to Le Parisien. “A bit more technique, the ability to twist free in little spaces, to dribble by gamers, to score from angles that are closed, to play quicker with a couple of bits of the ball. It still serves me now. In modern football, you will need to make decisions fast and play quickly.”
Even once signed for Toulouse, however, he faced a struggle to convince people who he was worth a shot and was almost loaned out to amateur side Luzenac prior to a second in training changed the head of trainer Alain Casanova.
“I was annoyed with him,” he confessed to Le Monde in 2018, explaining that a deal in principle was struck a day before. “I needed to show him what I could do. I took the ball and I dribbled around everybody, even the goalkeeper. I then went back and beat the goalkeeper and a defender prior to scoring.
“During that game, I did some excellent things while others were trying to tackle me and hurt me. They did not accept that I’d done that.”
Such moments, however, are not representative of Ben Yedder the professional. Aged 29, he’s grown into one of the deadliest strikers in the game, lying ninth in large chance conversion percentage in Europe’s major leagues of players to get at least 20 such opportunities.
In this respect, he surpasses more celebrated figures like Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski, Messi, Mbappe, and Neymar.
Perhaps the only thing which may dissuade enormous clubs against gaming on him is his prestige. At only 5ft 7in, he’s not an archetypal modern-day centre-forward and typically works best with a partner in attack.
This could explain why Manchester United, who he memorably removed from the Champions League at Old Trafford while playing with Sevilla in 2018, didn’t plump for him when they were said to have held an interest.
On the other hand, he’s a player who seems purpose-built for Barcelona, whose inaction to maneuver must rank as one of the biggest regrets of the past 12 months.
At a pinch, they were forced to sign another former Toulouse striker, Martin Braithwaite, from Levante. Barca triggered a release clause of $18m to sign him but while half of the price of’WBY’, he’s also half the participant.
Braithwaite played 149 times for TFC with a yield of 40 goals, while Ben Yedder got 31 more in only 25 more outings. More recently, Ben Yedder enrolled at better than a goal every two games with Sevilla, while Braithwaite barely got one in four to Leganes, picking up aids in a poorer rate, also.
But having come from humble beginnings, the striker, who would have stood a nice likelihood of leading the line for France in Euro 2020 had it not been postponed, is pragmatic.
“I could not imagine playing in Ligue 1 and the France team. No-one might have seen it,” he advised Le Parisien when asked about his increase during the previous ten years. “Every day is different. You always need to keep the faith and the ambition to realise your dreams.”
In linking Monaco, the club he supported as a boy, Ben Yedder has realised one of these fantasies, yet just around the corner, there might be better days ahead.
“I always dream bigger,” he told Onze, echoing the motto of a specific group from France’s capital.
Truly, Barcelona’s loss might be PSG’s gain, with the participant’s hometown club the latest to be linked with a move. The only surprise should be that his day in the sun has not come earlier.