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Name: Jordan Veretout
Date of Birth: 01/03/1993
Club: Aston Villa
Position: Central midfielder
Height: 5ft 9in (177cm)
Weight 10st 5lbs (67kg)
Preferred Foot: Right
With lots of money at their disposal following the sales of Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph, Aston Villa continued their summer spending with the signing of Nantes midfielder Jordan Veretout for £8m. After another accomplished season in Ligue 1, the 22 year-old drew a lot of interest in both France and England, but will play his football in claret and blue next season. He is the fourth player to join the club from Ligue 1 since the transfer window opened and, coincidentally, the third named Jordan after Amavi and Ayew were signed earlier on in July.
As a young footballer beginning his career, Veretout played for his local club Belligne who exist purely for recreational purposes and do not hold a professional status to play in any of the French divisions. He started there at the age of seven, and would spend three years with the club until he was spotted and signed by Nantes in 2003, a few months after his tenth birthday. His development at Nantes would continue in their youth systems, before being called up to the senior squad in 2011 aged only 17.
Veretout made his professional debut for Nantes in Ligue 2 on May 13, 2011 in a 3-1 loss against CS Sedan Ardennes. This was his only appearance in the league for the Canaries during the 2010/11 season, but he started and completed three matches in the Coupe de la Ligue before they were knocked out by Boulogne on penalties. Despite only making a handful of appearances the previous season, then Nantes manager Landry Chauvin showed great faith in the 18-year-old and picked him regularly as a starter during 2011/12. He ended the season with 35 appearances, scoring six goals in addition to clocking up nearly 3,000 minutes of football in Ligue 2.
After his impressive breakthrough season, he was again selected regularly throughout 2012/13 after new manager Michel Der Zakarian arrived. Still in Ligue 2, the Frenchman featured 34 times in a slightly deeper midfield role for Nantes, becoming a key figure in their promotion to Ligue 1 after they secured a third place finish. Unfortunately, the 2013/14 season would be an inconsistent one for Veretout as he struggled physically in France’s top flight. Still displaying plenty of technical ability, his slender size and frame saw him bullied by many of the more physical midfielders he came up against. He still made 32 appearances for Nantes in all competitions, but found himself substituted frequently as well as only scoring one goal. While he did not reach his top level consistently, it was easy to forget that he was only 20 years of age at the time, still learning his trade in midfield and developing into his maximum physical potential.
With Nantes in desperate need of some inspiration from within after being hit with a transfer embargo, step up Jordan Veretout who had the best season of his very short career thus far. 2014/15 saw him make 40 appearances in all competitions, completing 3,216 minutes out of a possible 3,240 in the league as well as scoring seven of their 29 Ligue 1 goals to help them finish 14th. The 22 year-old midfielder had been a key figure for Les Canaris since his debut in 2011, but this was where he would really be able to put the team on his back and almost single handedly guaranteeing their top flight status for next season.
One of Veretout’s greatest strengths is his passing ability. The midfielder tallies up 44 passes per 90 minutes, and completes 80% of them. These statistics look fairly unimpressive at first glance, but where his real talents lie are his choice and execution of pass in the final third. He creates 2.02 chances and makes 1.85 key passes per game, numbers which put him comfortably ahead of any midfielders in Ligue 1 under the age of 23. His average pass length is 20.81m, which again is superior to the likes of PSG’s Marco Verratti on 16.44m, Lyon’s Corentin Tolisso on 17.71m and Rennes’ Abdoulaye Doucoure on 16.83m. He is always keen to switch the play, often being the calm and composed head to find a free man out wide when the centre of the pitch is congested. An example of Veretout’s incisive passing can be seen against Valenciennes on April 20, 2014, where he was isolated by the touchline before dinking a lovely ball with his weaker left foot over a retreating defender, allowing teammate Alejandro Bedoya to slot the ball away on the half volley. While he primarily plays as a central midfielder, he was deployed in a more advanced role for Nantes last season and was surprisingly efficient. Aston Villa could find his ability to play as a deep lying playmaker, box-to-box midfielder or as a number ten extremely useful in the future.
What Veretout lacks in physical attributes, is compensated for with his mental attributes. An intelligent player, he often intercepts passes from the opposition centre backs and midfielders as they look for their more creative players, averaging 1.34 interceptions per 90 minutes. He also uses his positional awareness to block passing lanes, plugging gaps in the pitch rather than pressing opponents or leaving himself in 1v1 duels where he may not back himself so heavily. The 22 year-old commits 1.4 fouls per game, which is again one of the lowest numbers in the league for central midfielders, in addition to winning 1.57 tackles per game, which shows he can roll up his sleeves and carry out his defensive duties should he need to. An example of his ability to intelligently intercept the ball can be seen against Lorient on May 16, 2015, where right back Lamine Gassama struck the ball sweetly down the line to launch a counter attack, before Veretout read the pass and stuck out a left boot, preventing the dangerous break and retaining possession for his side.
Another area in which Veretout excels is his taking of set pieces. With only a one or two step run up, his deliveries are very flat, in addition to generating plenty of whip and speed on the ball which makes it extremely difficult to defend. Veretout is also ice cold under pressure. Trusted with the responsibility of taking Nantes’ penalty kicks, he confidently dispatches them finding both the top and bottom corners with consummate ease. On September 28, 2014, Nantes were losing 1-0 at home to high flyers Lyon, before they were awarded a penalty with 20 minutes to go. Again, showcasing his unique style, he took two steps before drilling the ball into the bottom left corner, out of the reach of goalkeeper Anthony Lopes despite him guessing the right way.
Veretout has all of the attributes to be an excellent midfielder and to succeed in the modern game. He is hard working and tenacious, yet technically superb with a footballing brain that should be on a player ten years his superior. After proving his worth in Ligue 1, it was probably the right time for him to move to a bigger club in France, or abroad to the Premier League to really take his game to the next level. Undoubtedly, the expectation on him now in England’s top division after his sizeable fee will increase, and he will need to be prepared for that. However, Veretout has always remained calm under pressure and there is little to suggest that he will crack in the Midlands. Tim Sherwood and Aston Villa have made some very astute signings over the summer, and while Jordan Amavi and Idrissa Gueye are really great additions to their squad – Veretout has that little bit extra to really become a star. Already in the French national side set up at every youth level, he will be hoping to settle in quickly at Villa to really put himself in the eyes of Didier Deschamps, just in time for the European Championships next summer.
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