So who is Nabil Fekir, the French footballer whose name has been linked for much of the past year with Liverpool, and whom the Reds appear to be on the verge of signing?
Born in July 1993 to parents of Algerian descent in the municipality of Decines on the outskirts of Lyon, Nabil Fekir, who will turn 25 next month, began his footballing journey at the age of eight at amateur football club Vaulx-en-Velin, before joining nearby SC Caluire at the age of 11. By age 12, he had shown sufficient promise for the youth academy of Olympique Lyonnais to offer him a contract, but was released two years later for not being strong enough. He returned to Vaulx-en-Velin determined to prove Lyon wrong and, despite attracting the attention of scouts from across France, and being offered a contract at Saint Etienne, chose to remain at Vaulx until Lyon came back in for him, saying: “I wanted to show [Lyon] that they made a mistake”.
Aged 18, Lyon did come back in for Fekir, and he duly played his first professional game for the club on the 28th of August 2013, aged 20, in the second-leg of a Champions League qualifying match against Real Sociedad, which the Spaniards won 4-0 on aggregate.
On April 27th 2014, Fekir burst onto the Ligue 1 scene, scoring on his league debut in a 4-1 win over Bastia, and providing two assists. The following season he would cement his burgeoning reputation, scoring 15 goals in 34 league and Cup appearances, providing nine assists and marking himself out as both goalscorer and provider.
In 2015, Fekir was selected to play for both France and Algeria and found himself forced to make a choice between the two national teams. With his father’s dreams of seeing his son turn out for the “Fennecs” weighing heavily on his shoulders, but torn himself between the two, he initially pledged his allegiance to Algeria, only to change his mind several hours later and choose France instead. That decision, reportedly, was to cause divisions in the Fekir household and resentment in Algeria.
“We’re still in shock,” his grandfather said at the time. “We never expected Nabil to choose France. We were really hoping he would one day wear the national shirt, but what can you do? Of course, we’re enormously disappointed. It would have a been a source of great pride for our grandson to wear the Algerian shirt, and he’d assured us he was going to play for the ‘Greens’. Even his father was confident. I don’t know what happened.”
A torn ACL would rob Fekir of most of the 2015/2016 season, restricting him to just five Ligue 1 starts, although he nevertheless managed to find the net four times.
But the following season, in a remarkable demonstration of resilience and consistency, Fekir bounced back, netting 18 times in 30 Ligue 1 appearances and making seven assists. This season has seen him maintain that form, despite the departures of a number of international-calibre players including Andre Lacazette, Corentin Tolisso, Mathieu Valbuena and Maxime Gonalons.
Nabil Fekir’s story so far is one of a highly-talented, adaptable and focused footballer able to shut out external difficulties in his determination to reach the top. It is almost certain that he will improve any team he joins.