Why Spurs are eyeing Henry's heir Martial this summer
The 60-second story
- Date of birth: December 5, 1995
- Place of birth: Massy, France
- Position: Forward
- Height: 5ft 11in
- Club: Monaco (63 apps, 14 goals)
- Former club(s): Lyon
- International: France U21 (12 caps, 4 goals)
If you hadn't already noticed, France is producing some of the brightest young talents in European football.
Stars such as Raphael Varane and Paul Pogba are established at some of the continent’s biggest clubs, while others like Nabil Fekir and Alexandre Lacazette are impressing in the country’s national division.
Anthony Martial is part of the next wave of talented youngsters with huge potential, and has been touted as a future star in his homeland for several years.
He was snapped up by Lyon from Parisian youth side CO Les Ulis, the same club where Thierry Henry started out at the age of 14.
Martial made his first-team debut two years later in a Europa League group match before joining nouveau-riche AS Monaco in 2013 for €5 million the following year, a surprisingly large fee for such a young player in France’s conservative transfer market.
Last season he performed well for Leonardo Jardim’s Monégasques, and introduced himself to a wider audience after some impressive displays in the Champions League where the unfancied French side make the quarter-finals. He particularly stood out against Arsenal, who Monaco beat over two legs in the last 16 after winning 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium. Martial assisted Dimitar Berbatov for his side’s second goal.
The 19-year-old scored 12 goals in all competitions last season, more than any of his team-mates, and is now being widely linked with a hefty £18 million move to Tottenham this summer.
Why you need to know him
After initially struggling to impose himself with Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez blocking his path, Martial has become a fundamental part of Monaco's side and is now vital to their success – only Fabinho, Joao Moutinho and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco played in more games last term. His form towards the end of the campaign was fantastic: from March 7, he scored eight goals in 15 games.
Such impressive performances saw him nominated for Ligue 1’s young player of the year award (nine goals made him the highest-scoring teenager in Europe’s top five leagues). Despite losing out to Lyon’s Fekir, he can be more than proud of his efforts – not that Martial wants to rest on his laurels.
"I dream of playing for the French national side and winning the World Cup," he has declared. It shouldn’t be too long before he gets a call from Didier Deschamps, who will no doubt have kept a close eye on the youngster. It's with the national youth setups that Martial has put in some of his best performances. With 27 goals across five different age groups, his ratio of more than one every two games is nothing to sniff at.
Having played for the same youth side as Henry, it's inevitable that Martial has been compared to the French great. Just like the former Gunner, his explosiveness and incredible speed – along with his impressive dribbling and ball control – make him a nightmare to play against, and he's carved out a reputation in France for his often-frightening ability to stretch defences.
The youngster is also an unselfish player who's able to provide assists for his team-mates. With those similarities and his current rate of progress in mind, some excitable souls have already suggested Martial has what it takes to emulate his fellow Ulis graduate. No pressure, then.
What Martial possesses in speed and directness he lacks in strength. The teenager often finds himself unable to hold off the strongest defenders and struggles in the air, which is something he must work on if he really wants to become a worldwide star.
He also needs to work on his fitness and stamina: of the 35 league games he was involved in last season, Martial completed 90 minutes just three times. It's a problem former manager Claudio Ranieri picked up on, the Italian stating that he sometimes took the youngster off because he had “run out of gas”.
With Monaco being able to splash the cash on some of football’s biggest names, Martial has already had the opportunity to share the pitch with some top talent. But it seems those players themselves have been impressed with that they've seen from their young team-mate. "He is a player who, if he is good both physically and mentally, can become a hugely influential player both nationally and internationally," said midfielder Moutinho. Ranieri added: "He has the qualities to become a world star, the potential to have a huge career. He is young but has a very good mentality already."
Did you know?
Despite being from Paris, Martial admits that he's a big Lyon fan, which should come as no surprise bearing in mind that he started his career there. His favourite player was Brazilian Sonny Anderson, so the forward was presumably quite happy when he was able to learn directly from the man himself, who spent four years as striker coach with the Rhône-Alpes side.
What happens next?
While Ligue 1 is undeniably improving in both quality and reputation, it still has some way to go to rival European big boys like the Premier League and La Liga. It's not surprising, then, that Martial has been linked with a move to the former, with Spurs now leading the chase for his signature after previous rumoured interest from north London rivals Arsenal.
Whether he stays at Monaco or seeks pastures new, there's no doubt that Martial is one of football’s hottest properties. It's a big season ahead for the 19-year-old anyway, what with Euro 2016 on the horizon in his homeland. The future looks bright not just for the striker, but French football as a whole.