Michy Batshuayi: The SpongeBob-loving Spurs target tearing up Ligue 1
The 60-second story
- Date of birth: October 2, 1993
- Place of birth: Brussels, Belgium
- Height: 5ft 11in
- Position: Striker
- Current club: Marseille (53 apps, 24 goals)
- Former club(s): Standard Liege
- International: Belgium (2 apps, 2 goals)
Born in Brussels in October 1993, the 22-year-old Batshuayi was something of a journeyman during his youth career. His footballing journey began with RFC Evere and took in spells at RUSA Schaarbeek, Brussels FC (twice) and Anderlecht, before he finally settled down at Standard Liege, where he made his professional debut aged 18.
A striker of Congolese descent, Batshuayi took to life in the first team terrifically, netting his first goal in a 1-0 Europa League victory over FC Copenhagen in 2011. He would go on to score an impressive 39 goals in 97 Belgian Pro League games during a three-year spell, including 21 in his final year, when he finished as the division’s highest scorer behind Lokeren’s Hamdi Harbaoui.
His big move to Marseille came last year, since when the Belgian has found the back of the net 20 times in 44 league games to establish himself as one of Europe’s up-and-coming stars. Batshuayi, nicknamed ‘Batsman’, has shone brighter than the likes of Christian Benteke and Divock Origi this season, and will be confident of earning a place in Marc Wilmots’ squad for Euro 2016.
Why you need to know him
At 5ft 11in, Batshuayi doesn't have the same imposing frame of Didier Drogba, but there are certainly comparisons to be made between the two
Batshuayi has been a rare bright spot in a disappointing campaign for Marseille, leading to multiple reports linking him with a move to the Premier League; Arsenal, Tottenham and Newcastle are thought to be particularly interested.
Eleven goals in 19 games puts him behind only Paris Saint-Germain’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the Ligue 1 scoring charts; considering Marseille are currently languishing down in 10th place – some 26 points behind their biggest rivals – that is an excellent achievement.
Despite a terrific start to the campaign in which l’OM won eight of their first 10 games, Marcelo Bielsa could only lead them to a Europa League spot last year before his shock resignation in August. Batshuayi himself scored nine goals in 2014/15, a respectable haul for a player who was adjusting to Ligue 1 and often started matches on the bench.
At 5ft 11in, Batshuayi doesn't have the same imposing frame of Didier Drogba, but there are certainly comparisons to be made between the two. The Chelsea legend only spent a single season at the Stade Velodrome, but 19 league goals were enough to earn him the admiration of the Marseille masses – and a big-money move to the Premier League.
Batshuayi’s deadly finishing is ultimately what makes him so attractive to English sides, but there’s a lot more to his game too. He's excellent at running with the ball at his feet – as a superb solo effort in the 6-0 thrashing of Troyes demonstrated – and he also possesses the upper-body strength to win physical battle with centre-halves.
The Belgian also has a useful knack of ghosting in behind unsuspecting backlines, while his his ability to bring others into play makes him the ideal focal point up top.
Inexperience. Belgium boss Wilmots still hasn’t trusted Batshuayi with an international start, while 2015/16 is the former Standard Liege man’s first full season as the first-choice line-leader for Marseille. Adapting to the fast-paced and often unforgiving environment of the Premier League wouldn’t be easy either.
“There is not a single top 15 world club that is not interested in Batshuayi,” said Marseille president Vincent Labrune earlier this season. “He is one of the most wanted players on the market. There were a lot of offers for him this summer, but he didn’t want to leave. He’s proving himself on the pitch, and if clubs want him then they are going to have to pay around €50m.”
Did you know?
Many footballers like to relax with a box set or two after training, but it’s not Breaking Bad or Mad Men that Batshuayi’s into.
“SpongeBob [SquarePants] is a cartoon I love,” the 22-year-old admitted earlier this month. Especially when I’m in bed by myself at home and I have trouble sleeping, my reflex is to put cartoons on. I took to SpongeBob and started watching it frequently; even when I’m older I think I’ll still watch the show!”
What happens next?
The January chase for Batshuayi’s signature is already on, but Labrune is unlikely to be an easy negotiator given his praise for the striker. Money talks, though, and were a Premier League club to wave a large stash of cash in his direction, the Marseille chief may suddenly be more willing to negotiate a deal.