Maxime Lopez is a player ready to come out of the shadows at Marseille, as new head coach Rudi Garcia has already shown a willingness to gamble on him.
The 18-year-old started for the first time in a Ligue 1 match during Sunday’s drab scoreless encounter with Bordeaux at the Velodrome, burdened by an expectation of great things from him. OM are not a club renowned for their prolific youth academy, yet Lopez has caused a stir – Marseille have not seen a talent of his standard since they welcomed Samir Nasri to their squad in 2004.
His first real steps among the professionals were encouraging. He made 110 touches and emerged as the most dynamic member of the Marseille midfield. There can be little doubt he was the most exciting player on display and showed enough to suggest that he can live up to his billing as the future of the Provence club.
He may be small in stature, but he makes up for that with his technical attributes as well as his willingness to get on the ball and make things happen going forwards.
“He played a great match,” team-mate Florian Thauvin told La Provence after the draw. “It’s not a surprise for me. We know his qualities. He’s a very good player and has a very bright future. He was able to show everyone the extent of his talents.”
Like Nasri, Lopez was born in Marseille. A product of the OM academy, he is a midfielder capable of playing as a No.10 or as an energetic relay in the centre of the side – much like the former Arsenal man.
Indeed, he has already piqued the interest of the Gunners, who sought to pinch him from his hometown club before he had signed a professional deal in 2014.
Two years later, the interest from big clubs is intensifying. Lopez, who also rejected the overtures of Liverpool to remain in the south of France, has been rewarded for his efforts. While he had already made his first assist with the club, under Garcia he is set to be given extensive playing opportunities.
Nasri played 121 Ligue 1 matches for Marseille before moving to Arsenal for €16 million, and now OM are aiming to provide Lopez with a similar basis to build a successful career.