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The glittering diamond in the French Ligue 1 after US$531m transfer spree

By Robson Sharuko

Zimbabwe international forward Tino Kadewere is making such a huge impression at Olympique Lyon, he is now regarded as the player to watch out for among the recruits who arrived in the French Ligue 1, this season.

SKY IS THE LIMIT . . . Zimbabwe international forward, Tino Kadewere, continues to get raving reviews in Europe after a flying start to life in the French Ligue 1 where he has scored four league goals so far this season
SKY IS THE LIMIT . . . Zimbabwe international forward, Tino Kadewere, continues to get raving reviews in Europe after a flying start to life in the French Ligue 1 where he has scored four league goals so far this season

Clubs in Europe’s fifth best top-flight league splashed about US$530 998 943.12 in transfer expenditure, before the start of this season.

They brought in players from Italy, Argentina, Portugal, Spain, England, Brazil, Turkey, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland and a host of other countries.

The players were recruited from clubs like Inter Milan, Sevilla, FC Porto, AS Roma, FC Barcelona, Everton, Real Madrid, Villarreal, Sampdoria, RB Leipzig, Leicester City, Wolves and Southampton to name but a few.

And, in that ocean of talent in Europe’s fifth strongest top-flight football league, Kadewere has emerged as the player the officials believe is the one to look out for, among those who arrived this season.

The Warriors forward is one of the 278 foreigners in French Ligue 1, which represents 48,7 percent of its composition, whose total market value is about US$4.09 billion.

Paris St Germain forward, Kylian Mbappe, is the Most Valuable Player worth about US$213.83 million.

Kadewere, who turns 25 on January 5 next year, has been making waves at Lyon, defying expectations from many seasoned analysts, who believed he was going to find the transition, into one of Europe’s top leagues, a difficult task.

Overnight, he has become the Zimbabwean footballer attracting most of the headlines, around the world, and three league goals in his last two matches, have propelled him firmly into the limelight.

Four goals, including two against record 10-time French Ligue 1 champions, AS Saint Etienne, in the Derby Rhone-Alpes, and an assist, in his last five league matches, have catapulted Kadewere into second place, on his team’s scoring charts, after Dutch star Memphis Depay.

The Dutchman, who could have moved to Barcelona during the off-season, had the Catalan side not been hit by financial challenges, has scored five league goals.

Kadewere and his other striker partner, Karl Toko Ekambi of Cameroon, have four goals each.

Mbappe leads the league’s scoring charts with nine goals.

The Zimbabwean forward has scored more goals so far this season than Argentine forward, Mauro Icardi, who completed his permanent move to PSG, from Inter Milan, in June this year for about US$56 million.

The 27-year-old striker, who was at PSG on loan last season, also received US$9 million in bonuses, as part of the deal, which took him from Inter.

He has two goals in his four league appearances for PSG this season.

French Ligue 1 picked Kadewere as the player to watch this campaign after his double strike downed Saint Etienne in Le Derby just before the international break.

And, the man who gave him a break into European football, Djurgaderns sporting director, Bo Andersson, feels the Warriors star could be one of the greatest players to emerge out of the Swedish top-flight league side.

“He can become one of our greatest players of all time,” Andersson was quoted as saying by the French Ligue 1 official website.

“When he signed his contract, he started to cry and said he didn’t want to go back (to Zimbabwe), so we signed him on loan.

“We saw his talent, and immediately believed in him.

“After two months, we bought him and made him sign a long contract.”

A move to French Ligue 2 side Le Havre, “the club on the Normandy coast where the careers of Steve Mandanda, Paul Pogba, Benjamin Mendy and Ferland Mendy all took off’’ in the summer of 2018 saw him finish as the league’s Golden Boot winner.

That laid the foundation for his breakthrough move to Lyon.

“He’s very intelligent. He’s a good technical footballer, with pace . . . to score goals,” said Andersson.

And, the French Ligue 1 administrators agree.

“His movement and deft flick for his first goal (in the Derby), and his dribbling and opportunistic finish for his second tell you everything you need to know about this 24-year-old, who can play through the middle, but has mostly been used in a wider role by Garcia,’’ they said on their website.

“The Derby Double is undoubtedly the highlight so far, but there are surely more to come. He has made nine (now 10) league appearances, only five (now six) of which have been starts, but he now has three (now four) goals in his last four top-flight outings with an assist to boot.’’

And his coach, Rudi Garcia, says he is impressed by what he is seeing.

“He’s a complete player. He links up well with the others, has a good feel for the game, and has the qualities of a goal-scorer,’’ the Frenchman said.

Kadewere has benefited from playing alongside Depay and, after what appeared to be a difficult start for the club, Lyon are now into third place, behind leaders PSG and Lille.

“Rudi Garcia predicted his Lyon side would click into gear once the transfer window closed and, thanks largely to Memphis Depay’s brilliance, the coach is being proved right,’’ explained French Ligue 1 website blogger, Matthew Spiro.

“Depay is 26, a prime age for an attacker, he was head and shoulders Lyon’s best player last season before rupturing ligaments in his knee in December.

“After four years of valiant service at Groupama Stadium, it was felt the Dutchman had earned the right to his big move this summer.

“That permission never came, leaving both club and player in an awkward impasse. Depay’s temperament has been questioned in the past, and his doubters might have expected the mercurial forward to sulk following the failed transfer.

“Yet Depay’s reaction has been the opposite.

“In his first game after the window closed, the former PSV Eindhoven and Manchester United player was quite simply inspirational away to Strasbourg.

“Lyon had not won any of their previous five matches, but with Memphis leading the charge they began to turn their season around at the Stade de le Meinau.

“They went 3-0 up inside 42 minutes, with a turbo-charged Depay setting up one goal for Tino Kadewere and two for Karl Toko Ekambi.’’ The Herald

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