London: Is this Metz star the next big thing? Watch out QPR, Millwall, Brentford, Palace, West Ham..
French side FC Metz have always been acquainted with producing top homegrown talent.
In fact, this yo-yo club, which has alternated between Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 in its rather unheralded history, proudly boasts a number of superstars on their shortlist.
From Bayern Munich legend Franck Ribery to Arsenal duo Robert Pires and Emmanuel Adebayor and ex-Liverpool hero Sadio Mane, the list of Messins who plied their trade with the Clarets before going on to have great careers is sizeable.
And while Watford star Ismaila Sarr and West Ham’s Maxwel Cornet, at the Stade Symphorien in 2017 and 2015 respectively, are perhaps the latest additions of this blockbuster list, there’s currently a player making waves for himself in Eastern France.
The youngster in question is 22-year-old Georges Mikautadze.
A fast and versatile forward with a low centre of gravity, the Georgia international’s career looks destined to take off.
Destined to leave Metz through the big door next summer, a number of mid to lower-table London clubs should already circle his name.
Currently playing in the second-tier of French football under famous Romanian manager László Bölöni, the same man who gave Cristiano Ronaldo his Sporting Lisbon debut two decades ago, Mikautadze is coming of age and looks too good to ignore.
His stats of seven goals and four assists in 14 league outings may not immediately catch the eye but his work ethic, technique and rapid change of direction and pace are startling.
A scoring sensation in Belgium’s top-flight when on loan at FC Seraing a couple of seasons ago, it appears that he’s now finding his feet in France too.
Having outscored Dutch international Noa Lang with nine strikers in Belgium last season, he had also found the breakthrough 19 times in the division below a season earlier.
And the fact that no French top-flight club snapped him looks increasingly foolish. In fact, he’s having the same influence in Ligue 2 as Brereton Diaz in its English Championship equivalent this term.
But sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better.
Ex-Brentford stars Said Benrahma and Neal Maupay established themselves in Ligue 2 before Brentford successfully took a punt on them.
The pair are now regular starters in the Premier League and there are no doubts that Mikautadze can follow suit as he’s way more talented than the former Bees duo.
And whether it’s Thomas Frank’s side, Fulham, Crystal Palace, West Ham or Watford, the Georgian is someone to keep an eye on and invest in before his price tag goes through the roof. London clubs, including Championship sides Millwall and QPR, are warned.
Capital Football attended two Metz games this season to analyse the up-and-coming prodigy’s all-round.
Metz 2-0 Valenciennes, August 13
With the game still hanging in the balance, Mikautadze scored a cracking goal to seal the deal as Metz registered a 2-0 victory over Valenciennes. And what a goal this was. He cantered forward past several Valenciennes players, cut inside his weaker left foot and stabbed home Metz’s second. That masterstroke rounded off a complete performance both on and off the ball.
Playing as a winger in Metz’s 4-2-3-1 system, he was a bundle of energy up and down the pitch. He tracked down his markers off the ball while aso closing them down to make it harder to play out. While the rotation of his movements confused Valenciennes’ rear-guard. Besides, he’s also unfazed by trying his luck from distance at times, regardless of the position and odds to score. Remarkably, for a player who is so good technically, he’s very unselfish and loves to involve his teammates.
Personal accolades and headlines don’t seem to bother him, he puts the team first. And as Metz came out on top against fellow ex-Ligue 1 side Valenciennes, the former whiz kid looked a real handful and rightfully earned Capital Football’s full marks.
Metz 3-2 Saint-Etienne, November 7
Relegated Metz, 15th in Ligue 2 before kick-off, entertained fallen 70s giants Saint-Etienne.
And the versatile Georgian was a real threat right from the start. Even though Napoli star Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s international colleague should have done better when he latched on to a telegraphed pass before flashing his shot across the face of goal as the game was a few minutes old. But his movement, clever runs and ability to attack the space were irreproachable. Saint-Etienne endured nightmarish moment whenever he had the ball yet he failed to test the goalkeeper a single time.
And right now, he’s a Ligue 1 player with the end product of a Ligue 2 player. Against Les Stephanois he did everything but score, often getting past opponents with sheer ease before disappointingly fluffing his lines. But to his defence, he’s not an out-and-out centre-forward and has time to work on his finishing before taking the next step. But that just seems like a natural consequence of his rise. He already looks on another level for the way he creates spaces for players around him due to his ability to keep the ball and hide it before picking out a teammate in the pockets.
The adventurous and energetic parts of his game are reminiscent of Robinho. Once he is through on goal, two defenders find it often hard to keep pace. Irritatingly, he spoils a great run with a poor finish, just like Robinho used to at times. Nobody said he will ever turn into a Robinho but he has all the requisites to go on to bigger things…as London could one day become his address.
The Championship looks like a suitable destination to settle in English football and work on his precision in front of goal.
If he does that, there's no limit in sight...as Benrahma and Maupay show him the pathway.