Everything you need to know about... Eliaquim Mangala
The 60-second story
- Name: Eliaquim Mangala
- Date of birth: February 13, 1991
- Age: 23
- Height: 1.88m (6ft 2in)
- Previous clubs: Namur, Standard Liege, Porto
- International career: France (3 caps, 0 goals)
Eliaquim Mangala arrived at FC Porto from Standard Liege in the summer of 2011 in exchange for £5.5 million. His physical prowess immediately stood out but an overly aggressive approach resulted in only a handful of substitute appearances in his first season, enough to leave his mark on several bruised opponents and his name in many a referee’s notebook.
The 2012/13 season witnessed a remarkable transformation and another object lesson in how Porto are able to turn players with raw talent into polished performers. While ever so slightly toning down his desire to completely overpower opponents, Mangala learned how to put his immense strength and athleticism to more efficient use. By the end of the title-winning campaign, Mangala had become the undisputed boss of a Porto defence that conceded just 14 goals in 30 Primeira Liga games.
He used his extraordinary athleticism to good effect in the opposing penalty box too, scoring seven goals throughout the campaign, almost all of which were headers including a crucial effort in the 2-2 draw at Benfica. A memorable season was capped with his first call-up to the senior France team.
Why you need to know him
Several analysts selected Mangala as Porto’s player of the year in 2012/13, but like the rest of the team his form suffered during the ill-fated Paulo Fonseca regime last season. He struggled as Nicolas Otamendi was sold and Maicon was injured, leaving him as the senior centre-back at just 22 years of age. Nevertheless, his wholehearted approach meant he remained a firm fans’ favourite and at times he carried the team, notably when bagging a brace away at Eintracht Frankfurt to clinch a quarter-final spot for the Dragons in the Europa League.
Such a prodigious talent was always going to move on from Porto sooner or later. Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Chelsea were all heavily linked with a swoop for Mangala in recent transfer windows. When clubs for whom money is no object are clamouring for the same signature, you know you are talking about a special player.
Athleticism, speed and strength. Mangala has all three qualities in spades. Once the Frenchman commits to a 50/50 dispute for the ball with his adversary, there is only ever going to be one winner. His remarkable leaping and heading ability makes him a potent weapon at the other end of the pitch on corners and free-kicks.
Mangala is not your cultured, ball-playing central defender, and his passing is generally poor when trying anything more ambitious than the simplest of deliveries. It was no coincidence that his stellar season in Portugal was when he played alongside the Argentine centre-back Otamendi. Once winning the ball, Mangala was happy to play a short pass and leave the distribution responsibilities to his partner.
Although he has improved his disciplinary record notably during his time in Portugal, Mangala still tends to pick up cards one feels he should have avoided.
France manager, Didier Deschamps: “He’s a young player with the potential to reach the very top.”
Did you know?
- Shooting 5
- Heading 9
- Passing 5
- Tackling 8
- Pace 8
- Dribbling 5
- Creativity 5
- Work-rate 7
Although born in the suburbs of Paris, Mangala was brought up in Belgium, his family relocating there when he was five years old. Upon moving to his new home he was forced to give up the sport he first loved, basketball, and that was when he discovered his passion for football.
What happens next?
Given his physicality and the ability he displayed at Porto to quickly learn the requirements of a new environment, a move to England will hold few fears. And with referees notoriously more lenient in the Premier League, opposition forwards will face a formidable and at times painful challenge in trying to get the better of Mangala.