Left-footed players are a special commodity in football. And when they can deliver the ball the way Thomas Lemar can, they jump to the head of the queue.
In the post Luis Enrique-era that will follow next season, Barcelona will look to rebuild and the Monaco talent is on their wanted list.
It’s amazing to think he moved to the Cote d’Azur for £3.4million in 2015. The Monegasque club would now demand over £30million for the France international.
— 9Sport (@9Sport1) March 28, 2017
Since moving from Caen, the 21-year-old has played in a variety of midfield positions. He’s featured in the middle of a two or a three, but it’s when Leonardo Jardim switched to 4-4-2 that Lemar really excelled.
He plays with his head up and his left foot is an exquisite wand. He never looks to complicate matters, although very capable of beating players off the dribble, he keeps it for special occasions and when it’s absolutely necessary.
What does Thomas Lemar bring?
Playing on the left of a midfield four, Lemar doesn’t play as a traditional winger. He drifts inside, allowing left-back Benjamin Mendy to bomb down the flank.
Once inside, he becomes a bigger threat. With a superb range of passes, he shows intelligence and a complete understanding of how to make a difference.
Lemar can drill cross-field balls, slip passes in-behind, fire deliveries in low and then tease goalkeepers and defender with curling crosses from anywhere in the final third.
Even though he plays down the channel, he’s not blessed with the same kind of pace as his team-mates Mendy and Kylian Mbappé, but he doesn’t need it. Lemar prefers to link-up, playing one-two passes and use movement and the threat of his delivery to open up space.
Although his left foot is deadly, it doesn’t mean he is useless on his weak side. Against Lorient, he showed his right is for more than just standing on, cutting inside before smashing a long-range effort off the post.
Goals against Tottenham Hotspur and Olympique de Marseille demonstrated the variety of ways he can finish. A back post smash at Wembley, then a lob at the Stade Velodrome that got everyone wondering if he meant it or not.
Underrated for Monaco
With Monaco this season, most of the attention has been directed towards Mbappé, Fabinho, Tiemoué Bakayoko and Radamel Falcao. Lemar has been an unsung hero in their amazing success. The midfielder has seven goals and six assists in the league – 11 and 10 in all competitions – and his performances convinced Didier Deschamps to hand him a call-up to the national team.
Due to his rather unknown status when he signed, it is believed that the 21-year-old is only earning £2,800-a-week, which is unthinkable to clubs like Barcelona and anyone in the Premier League.
Lemar, as soon as he moves, will be able to earn around the £70,000-a-week mark.
Where would he play for Barcelona?
This is the tricky part. Either, if the Spanish side play 4-3-3 or 3-4-3, Lemar would be ideal on the left of the attack. However, the only problem with that is Neymar.
The Brazilian is one of the best players in the world and unless the rumours of a €200million transfer to Manchester United is true, or a projected move to Paris Saint-Germain comes true. There wouldn’t be an obvious space for the Frenchman.
If played to the left of the 3-4-3, you would be worried about his defensive abilities to carry off that role. With 1.7 tackles per 90 minutes, 1.2 interceptions an 0.4 clearances, he’s not made to defend in the Monaco team, so you wouldn’t want to rely on him in that situation.
Good enough, but Lemar is not right for Barça
Lemar is best suited to a team that has a penalty box striker like Monaco have with Falcao. Barcelona very rarely throw the ball into the penalty area. They work it in, play with patience and crossing is often a last resort. As much as Lemar would be able to adapt, you are taking away one of the strongest elements of his game.
It’s not just a case of the midfielder throwing crosses into the area but he’s intelligent and able to pick his moment.
Against Nice in the recent derby game, it was this awareness that helped set up Falcao to secure a 3-0 victory.
Most wide players would have thrown the ball to the penalty spot to the onrushing Colombian.
Lemar knows his team-mate, waits that split second later and is able to pick out the forward with a low pass and the striker finishes with ease.
Monaco’s summer plans
In an ideal world Monaco would love to keep all their star players, but they know how football works.
With their project, they know that at least three of their stars will move on. Bakayoko will be first, Fabinho will be keen to move on but the third is more likely to be Bernardo rather than Lemar.
Monaco hope selling that trio will mean they hold onto Lemar and Mbappé for next term.
Lemar is undoubtedly good enough for the Spanish giants but his and their styles clash. Another campaign at Monaco would benefit everyone.