Florent Malouda. Scorer of 10 goals for Lyon in 06/07. Player of the year in 06/07. Sold to Chelsea for £13.5 million pounds in July 2007.
On paper it looks like the success story of an incredibly talented footballer, impressing all in Ligue 1, winning the ultimate acolade in French domestic football and completing his dream move to one of the most succesful clubs in Europe. But then why is the reality so different?
Malouda was purchased in the summer of 2007, by then Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho. With the constant injuries afflicting Arjen Robben, and the less than world class displays of Solomon Kalou, Mourinho was looking for a new option. Having previously signed "French footballer of the year" Michael Essien from Lyon, it would've made complete sense to sign yet another of the league's top assets. After a summer of relative thriftiness from the blues of west London, it seemed that Malouda finally formed the final piece of the Chelsea jigsaw -- a fast and agile player, with good ball skills who enjoyed taking on players, and not too shy of goal.
So where did it all go wrong?
It isn't fair to suggest that Malouda is "rubbish" or any other derogatory description, his time in Lyon proved otherwise, as did his appearances for the French club in the Champions League. However the facts cannot be disregarded. In his time at Chelsea, the winger has scored a total of 4 goals in all competitions, 2 of those in his first season, and 4 so far this season. The "recipients" of these goals? Shalke, Newcastle, Bordeaux ,Middlesborough and Portsmouth.
"What about the assists?" I hear you cry. In his 1st season, Malouda managed just 1 assist, in all competitions. This year he is much improved, already boasting 5 assists in the league. So the statistics point to an improving player, a player reborn under Scolari, a manager who enjoys the fast flowing football played by his Portugal side, rather than the drol football played by Mourinho in his later days at Stamford Bridge, and the snooze games managed by Grant.
However, I believe that he just flatters to deceive. Time and time again, he can be seen powering down the left wing in a decent postion only to make the wrong decision. He too often takes players on, when there is an easier passing option. His crossing is far from perfect, but perhaps most importantly he doesn't track back. This Chelsea side plays with rampaging fullbacks, who like to play the entire wing leaving them exposed to counter attacks, unless the covering wingers do their bit in defending. Malouda too often stays up field, walking back into place. During defensive corners, he sits on the halfway line waiting for the break. When the team go 1 nil down, he drops his head. But far too often doesn't play with his heart.
He isn't the worst player from a technical aspect, and on his day can shine and cause havoc to the opposing full backs. Yet he doesn't play the sort of football he is apparently capable of, or indeed he may already be playing that football but can't handle the pace and physical nature of the English game.
It's a mystery, one which Scolari is continuing to persue, yet one which is damaging Chelsea's title chasing season. If the question isn't answered by Christmas then Chelsea will pay for it.