The following article is extracted from Football News’s 200,000 word guide to the world of French football, The Football News 100 which focused on ranking individuals’ performances over the course of 2014 as a calendar year. To download the whole guide, click here.
The following piece was written in December 2014 and published on the 5th January 2015. Jordan Veretout was a new entry in 2014 and ranked 55th in our index out of French football’s 100 best players in this year’s Football News 100.
With the effects of the transfer embargo finally hitting home and the departure of last season’s star player in less than happy circumstances, expectations for FC Nantes were not all that high going into the 2014/2015 campaign. Talk was negative, chatter about a long hard season battling relegation that was not just a possibility rather it seemed inevitable.
However Michel Der Zakarian’s men clearly did not read the script, in late November they hit the dizzying heights of fourth and have never been out of the top half of the table. A run of nine games without defeat during the autumn saw doomsday scenarios put to bed. A final flourish of back-to-back wins over Bordeaux and Lorient saw them finish seventh, with 30 points, at the winter break. While survival is not mathematically safe just yet, it is becoming more and more unlikely that Nantes will find themselves in the relegation battle come the spring.
Nantes’ star player and top scorer Filip Djordjevic left on a free transfer for Lazio and Serie A at the end of last season. He quit under a cloud after there was a disagreement over the Serbian striker’s return from injury at the back-end of the season. The upshot was that Djordjevic did not take part in the final games of the season after his refusal to train.
Given the recruitment interdiction Nantes were left with little choice other than dealing with the hand that they were dealt. Itay Schechter and Johan Audel signed on permanently with the objective of replacing Djordjevic and his contribution. The pair contributed a grand total of 1 goal between them in their respective loan spells during the 2013-14 season.
Goals were of a premium for Nantes in their first season back in Ligue 1 and that is a theme that has continued into the current campaign. Last season they averaged a goal a game in the league putting them among the five worst attacks in the division.
All things considered FCN needed their players to stand up and be counted and one player that has done just that is Jordan Veretout. He has been one of the revelations of Nantes’ season, becoming a lot more decisive of the course of the last six months.
A product of the famous Nantes academy, Veretout made his professional debut for Nantes in 2011 when the club was knocking around Ligue 2. Now, at the age of 21 he has racked up over 100 appearances for his hometown club and will soon have played fifty games at the top level in France.
He is a midfielder with a tremendous engine but his naturally small frame stops him from physically dominating games, yet given his innate reading of the game skills he can avoid much of the excessively physical. When Michel Der Zakarian returned to the club in 2012 he played Veretout deeper than he had played previously. This new role would allow Veretout to learn about running the game from midfield and improve his playmaking skills. A player with no shortage of strength of character, Veretout has fulfilled several different roles for club and country.
Given Veretout’s polyvalence within the Nantes’ midfield he had yet to really tie down a position to call his own. It is this season that he has begun to stake a claim as a number ten behind a main striker. He has been regularly selected ahead of American international Alejandro Bedoya in the more advanced role. Considering Bedoya was the only Nantes play that went to the World Cup, Veretout keeping him out of the team is testament to his talent.
He has begun to be a lot more decisive, last season he contributed a single goal in the first 19 games and this time around he has six after eighteen matches. His tally of three assists is only one fewer than he achieved in the whole of last year. He is taking a lot more responsibility on board and he and his side are reaping the rewards.
The previous summer had seen Veretout start in every one of France’s games in their winning Under 20-World Cup campaign. Alongside players such as Paul Pogba, Lucas Digne and Florian Thauvin, Veretout was an important part of the side and stepped up in the penalty shootout in the final to convert a penalty for his country.
Penalties were becoming something of an issue for Veretout’s club side, the club was awarded two penalties in the first seven matches of the season, at home to Monaco and away at Bastia, both were missed. They had missed four Ligue 1 penalties in succession; all taken by different players. Match day eight came around and Nantes were at home to Lyon, trailing one nil when Nantes won a penalty. It was Veretout’s turn and he stepped up with confidence and slammed the ball home. He would go on to nail down the role of penalty-taker, converting from the spot again against Evian and Toulouse.
Probably Veretout’s standout performances of the season have come away from home at Evian and Caen, both games he scored and set up a goal for his team who were thus able to record important away wins. He also opened the scoring away at Metz, where his side came away with a point.
2014 had seen Veretout suffer niggling injuries, missing games here and there during the previous season. Thus far in 2014-15 he has started all bar one of Nantes league games, only being rested for the long midweek trip to Bastia.
His manager clearly seems happy with Veretout’s contribution. “Physically he is better, he is also better in controlling the play he is bring his vision to the side. He is a lot better than last year”. As on of Nantes’ key players this season he has drawn comparisons with another former Canari Jeremy Toulalan. Toulalan, much like many others who began their careers at Nantes before moving on to pastures new. Nantes’ reputation as a traditional selling club may return to haunt them should the vultures begin to circle around one of Les Canaris’ own.
The transfer embargo has thus far been fairly well managed by the Nantes hierarchy to the extent that a real team spirit has been engendered within the camp. A close-knit bunch with a large vocal fan-base cheering them on at home and away. Veretout is rapidly blossoming into the star of his hometown team.