The name on the lips of football fans up and down the country this morning is Steve Mounié. The Beninese striker is Town’s seventh signing of the summer and for the third time, Town have broken their transfer record after spending £11.5 million on the Montpellier starlet.
For such a hefty price-tag, there are a number of questions being raised about who Mounié is and if he will be a success at Huddersfield Town, this piece looks to answer some of these questions and offer a genuine insight into who the 22-year-old is and how we think he will fare in West Yorkshire.
Who is Steve Mounié?
After being born in the Beninise city of Parakou, Mounié moved to France at just the age of four. Growing up in France, Mounié began his career in Perpignan playing for a number of local amateur sides, it wasn’t long before he began attracting attention from across France but it was Montpellier that swooped to recruit him to their youth system.
In 2012, Mounié was one of many thousands stood at the Place de la Comédie in the heart of Montpellier to soak in the historic title victory, little did he know that in the years to come, he himself would be a hero for Montpellier.
Mounié’s footballing education came predominantly in the French youth system where he spent five years as part of Montpellier’s youth side before making his senior debut in a Coup de la Ligue tie against AC Ajaccio.
To continue Mounié’s development, the Beninese international was loaned to Ligue 2 side Nimes Olympique on a season-long loan.
Whilst Montpellier were hoping that Mounié would gain the priceless first team experience that wasn’t on offer at his parent club, Mounié’s arrival came at a difficult time for Nimes Olympique as it was announced that they would be docked eight points for match fixing.
In what quickly became an extremely difficult season for Nimes Olympique, Mounié was the silver lining for Les Crocodiles as the then 20-year-old striker finished as Nimes’ top goalscorer with eleven goals in thirty-three Ligue 2 appearances.
Having impressed for Bernard Blaquart’s side, Mounié returned to Montpellier with the opportunity to lead the line. However, Mounié returned to a struggling Montpellier side that was flirting with possible relegation to Ligue 2.
Once again, Mounié was the standout performer in a struggling side as he scored fourteen times and provided three assists in 35 Ligue 1 appearances for La Paillade.
Despite playing for a side that finished just three places and points above the relegation zone, Steve Mounié was keeping company with Mario Balotelli, Kylian Mbappe and Valère Germain in the goalscoring charts.
At just the age of 22, Steve Mounié began attracting attention from England with West Brom, Watford, and West Ham United all showing an interest. However, it was Town who prised the starlet away from a struggling Montpellier side for a record fee.
The Expert’s view
Following the news of Mounié’s arrival, Talk of the Town contacted journalist Philippa Booth of French Football Weekly to get her views on Town’s record-breaking signing.
How would you describe Steve Mounié’s playing style?
“He is a classic centre-forward, good in the air but also ready to crash in for a short-range shot. Quick and robust, with good finishing.”
Do you think his playing style would suit English football?
“Yes – he’s not bothered by a confrontation or a crowd around him, he has the strength to hold defenders off”.
What are his strengths and weaknesses?
“He’s very good in the air, but also smart with the ball on the ground, and will lay it off if he can’t take the shot.”
How crucial has been to Montpellier this season?
“Very. They scored more goals than any team outside the top six. Mounie’s single-minded pursuit of goals got them out of a world of trouble.”
Do you think he is worth the reported €13m figure?
“Valuations are tricky to evaluate as the Premier League spends way more on players than a Ligue 1 move. But if you’re worried that he’s had only two senior seasons, don’t be – one was with Nimes on loan, who had to make up an 8-point deduction (they did), and one was at Montpellier with a relegation flirt and mid-season managerial change. Mounie gets on with what he has to do. A tricky situation will be unlikely to phase him.”
Will he be a success at Town?
Any overseas signing comes somewhat as a risk. If a player struggles to adapt to English football or fails to settle in a foreign country then it can have a significant impact on the field, regardless of the talent they possess.
However, Wagner has demonstrated over the past eighteen months that he is far more than just an energetic bundle of energy with motivational skills that sees his side run through walls for him.
Wagner has shown that he is a shrewd operator in the transfer market that can be trusted with large amounts of money and deliver signings which fit the ethos of the side and prove to be continual successes.
With an eye for a good signing, David Wagner quickly acknowledged that he would need to re-vamp his misfiring forward line this summer as he immediately turned his attention to Montpellier’s 22-year-old starlet Steve Mounié.
From the outside looking in, it appears to be a very astute signing for Town to make as Mounié has all the necessary attributes to be a success in England and become the ideal candidate to lead the line for Town next season.
Standing at 6ft 3″, Mounié developed a reputation in Ligue 1 for his aerial dominance. The Beninese striker averaged over 8.3 successful aerial duels per game last season, more than any other player in Ligue 1. Only Crystal Palace’s Christian Benteke won more aerial duels than Steve Mounié last season in Europe’s top five divisions.
Within the fluid 4-2-3-1 system, I expect to see Mounié utilise his physicality to bring the bank of three attackers sat behind him into play. However, as a multi-dimensional striker, I also expect to see Mounié utilising his athleticism and surprising turn of pace to run the channels and stretch defences, creating space for his teammates.
Most significantly, Mounié’s insatiable knack of being in the right place at the right time will be crucial for Town next season. Whilst it is difficult to quantify, Steve Mounié’s natural positional awareness and clinical finishing from within the box will be the key to his success.
As Wagner likes his side to play with natural width, this system seems ideal as it will play to Steve Mounié’s strengths. If the right service can be provided, he could prove to be the consistent goalscorer that Town have been crying out for.
From David Wagner’s track record of both identifying astute signings and significantly improving them under his management, Steve Mounié is an exciting prospect who could under the right circumstances, set the Premier League alight next season.