England striker Mavididi leads Montpellier’s Coupe de France bid

After missing the chance to emulate his idol Thierry Henry while playing for Arsenal in the English Premier League, Stephy Mavididi is now making a name for himself in French football.

The 23-year-old striker is doing well with Montpellier and will lead his side’s bid to reach the Coupe de France quarter-finals in Marseille on Saturday.

Mavididi scored a superbly taken winner in stoppage time last weekend as Montpellier beat Monaco 3-2 to claim sixth in the league. He was also instrumental in the first goal against Monaco and scored the second.

Last season, he scored nine league goals for Montpellier supporting first-choice duo Andy Delort and Gaetan Laborde.

Since they both left, Mavididi has thrived in the spotlight. He leads the club with eight league goals and is second in assists with three, behind silky playmaker Teji Savanier.

Mavididi showed great potential early on.

He joined Arsenal’s academy aged 13 and was coached by top club Henry for the under-19s.

“He was my idol, he is still my idol,” Mavididi told the French league podcast. “The socks (raised to the knees like Henry did), the boots, really everything.”

But while Henry has lit up English football for years, Mavididi has never made the Gunners’ first team. After loan spells with lowly sides Charlton, Preston and Oldham, he joined Italian giants Juventus in 2018.

Originally signed to play only for the third-tier reserve side, he scored six goals in 32 Serie C games during the 2018-19 season and made one Serie A appearance.

It made him the first Englishman to play in Italy since midfielder David Platt in 1992, but his one game was not enough to earn him a title medal.

After a loan spell at Dijon when he scored five league goals in the First Division – the first Englishman to score in the French top flight since former England midfielder Joe Cole for Lille in 2011 – he joined Montpellier there. two years for 6.3 million euros ($7). million).

It wasn’t easy breaking into the team last season, with Laborde and Delort combining for 31 league goals.

Laborde now scores freely for Rennes and Delort regularly for Nice, but a new partnership is blossoming in Montpellier between Mavididi and 19-year-old Elye Wahi.

They have 13 goals so far.

Against Monaco, Wahi’s excellent close control allowed him to spot Mavididi hiding near the penalty area, and he expertly kicked the ball to the right before hitting a fine low shot into the bottom left corner .

His winning goal was even better.

With Nicolas Cozza rushing in from midfield, Mavididi risked being in an offside position if he received the ball.

He stepped forward slightly, then turned sharply to step into space behind the defender and receive a right-footed pass. Without breaking stride, Mavididi fired a shot into the top right corner.

It was a goal Henry would have been proud of and, ripping off his team jersey, Mavididi yelled “Come on!” to the Montpellier public as they celebrated their victory in added time.

Like Henry before him, the quick Mavididi also likes to run runs down the left flank. Henry praised him last month while commenting on a game for broadcaster Amazon.

“What I’ve always liked about Stephy Mavididi is that he’s a hardworking player who shuts down (opponents),” Henry said. “He’s always in the right place. What he lacked was finishing – either giving the ball away or scoring – but now he’s brought that to his game.”

With 226 goals for Arsenal and 51 for France – both records – Henry knew a bit more about finishing at the top level.

Mavididi has represented England at youth and Under-20 level for a total of six goals in 18 games. A chance for the senior team, however, can only come with a transfer to a big club.

But for now, he is helping Montpellier push for a Europa League spot next season – a stage where Mavididi could show his talents even more.

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