Aouar-ya? Meet the £65m Lyon starlet wanted by Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal, who Pep Guardiola once called ‘incredible’ and said Zinedine Zidane ‘made me love football’
- Lyon’s Houssem Aouar is one of the most sought-after players in Europe
- The 21-year-old midfielder is wanted by a host of top Premier League clubs
- French youth international has become a key player for Ligue 1 side Lyon
- He is of Algerian descent and admits he idolised Zinedine Zidane as a kid
Moussa Dembele isn’t the only Lyon starlet making waves across Europe.
Midfielder Houssem Aouar has become the latest young talent at the French club to arouse the interest of the Premier League’s elite.
Manchester City, Liverpool Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United are all tracking the £65m-rated 21-year-old, according to various reports.
Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar has attracted widespread interest from across Europe
While Dembele is well known after two spells at Fulham and Celtic earlier in his career, Aouar is much more of an unknown quantity at this moment in time.
But that all appears set to change after a season which has seen the French youth international of Algerian descent start to rise to the occasion.
Here, Sportsmail takes a look at just what all the fuss is about.
The 21-year-old has been linked with a host of top Premier League clubs this week
Houssem Aouar. Lyon’s 21-year-old midfielder, and French youth international of Algerian descent, who has fast become one of the most sought-after players in Europe.
But he has, so far, largely flown in under the radar. Despite being in one of the top five leagues in Europe, Ligue 1 struggles to dominate headlines – PSG aside.
And Lyon haven’t had a great season – they’re currently seventh with 10 games remaining and 10 points adrift of next season’s Champions League places.
But in Aouar and team-mate Moussa Dembele they have two of the hottest young properties in Europe, destined for bigger and better things.
Aouar has scored nine times in 37 appearances in an impressive season so far for Lyon
What does he do?
Aouar is a versatile attacking midfielder, who can play anywhere in the middle of the park.
Position: Attacking midfield
Height: 5ft 9in
His excellent technical ability and calmness with the ball at his feet help him stand out in a talented Lyon side.
At 21 he still has plenty of developing to do, both physically and technically, but already he is becoming more and more confident. He is on the slight side, standing at only 5ft 9in, but his low centre of gravity helps him keep control of the ball in tight spaces.
He likes to drive forward when he gets on the ball and is well capable of shooting from range. He possesses a fierce right foot capable of bursting the net, but which is also equipped with subtlety and can find the tightest of passes.
The departure of Nabil Fekir last summer was a tough one for Lyon fans to swallow, but it has allowed Aouar to blossom this season and showcase his best form.
Aouar has blossomed since the departure of former team-mate Nabil Fekir (left) last summer
So you’re saying he’s good?
Don’t take it from us. There can be few shrewder judges of a footballer than Pep Guardiola, and the Manchester City boss was effusive in his praise back in November 2018.
‘[Aouar] is a very good player. He is incredible. He’s always very calm with the ball at his feet, with an excellent technical quality’, he said.
Lyon beat City at the Etihad two months previously, and shared the spoils in an end-to-end 2-2 draw in the return leg of their group stage Champions League clash.
Aouar was just 20 at the time but had dominated a City midfield that included Fernandinho, David Silva and Riyad Mahrez.
Pep Guardiola called Aouar ‘incredible’ after a 2-2 draw with Man City in November 2018
He had put in a near perfect performance that night, completing 100 per cent of his dribbles, 90 per cent of his 62 passes, and making five tackles. City’s midfielders failed to dispossess him even once throughout the whole 90 minutes.
His commanding midfield displays don’t tell the whole story either, he has an eye for goal too. He had seven in 47 last season, and already nine in 37 this time around.
He is set to go past the 40-appearance mark for a third consecutive season – not bad for someone who doesn’t turn 22 until June.
Who wants him?
This week alone five leading Premier League clubs have been linked with the Frenchman.
Last month Juventus and PSG were among his admirers.
It appears to be only a matter of time before he does leave Lyon. According to The Sun, Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal are stepping up efforts to sign Aouar, who has been ‘scouted by all of the Premier League’s elite’.
Aouar attracted the interest of Liverpool back in 2016 but decided to stay put with Lyon
It is claimed Jurgen Klopp has identified Aouar as a long-term option in midfield as he looks to replace veteran duo James Milner and Adam Lallana this summer.
Liverpool wanted him before he signed his first professional contract with Lyon in July 2016, but he decided to stay put.
‘I thought about it hard with those close to me on the decision I needed to take, what was better for my progression. I opted for Lyon because it is the club of my heart and my aim was to succeed here, in [Lyon]’, he said in 2019.
He has admitted, though, that Manchester City and Guardiola would be hard to turn down: ‘You wouldn’t like to go to City?’ Aouar replied when asked about a potential move to The Etihad Stadium last year.
‘It is a great European club and all players have this urge to play for the biggest European clubs, which in addition is led by Guardiola, who for me is a reference as a coach. Guardiola has seen everything before.
‘It is extremely good to play his teams and that’s what I like, his way of seeing football.’
He made the decision to not leave Lyon last summer as he wanted to try and force his way into France’s Euro 2020 squad. However, with the tournament postponed for 12 months due to the coronavirus crisis, he is now reportedly looking for a move away.
Aouar is a French youth international of Algerian descent, following in a long line of talent
You said he was French of Algerian descent. Where have I heard that one before?
It’s a well trod path of footballers from across the Channel. Former Lyon man Karim Benzema, former team-mate Fekir, and, most famous of all, Zinedine Zidane.
Zidane became the poster boy of multicultural France after Les Bleus’ World Cup triumph in 1998.
Aouar was born just weeks before his country dispatched of Brazil in the final in Paris, but he has never shied away from his admiration from the man who was a beacon for a new generation.
‘I think Zidane was the player who made me love football,’ he told The Players’ Tribune last year.
‘Because of his way of playing and his behaviour. He is a great player and he’s French. So yes it really is [him].’
Aouar also says he used to imitate Zidane as a boy on the streets of Lyon.
‘When I was a boy, like most kids, I used to pretend to be another player,’ he told Ligue 1. ‘It was usually Zidane.’
He admits that Real Madrid legend and France legend Zinedine Zidane was his idol growing up
Lyon have produced quite a few now, haven’t they?
Aouar is just the latest off the Lyon conveyor belt. Their women’s side is renowned as the best in world football, and their academy isn’t too shabby either.
In the past 20 years plenty of young talent has come through and made a name for themselves across Europe. Sidney Govou, Loic Remy, Hatem Ben Arfa and Benzema of the previous generation, and in more recent years Alexandre Lacazette, Samuel Umtiti, Corentin Tolisso and Fekir.
The multicultural streets of Lyon have become a hotbed for young French talent, much like the banlieues of Paris.
This is where Aouar’s love for football was forged before he was snapped up by his boyhood club in 2009, aged just 11.
After being nurtured by the club’s famous academy Aoaur started to realise his own worth: ‘Around 15, 16, that’s when I told myself I could do something great’, he admitted to the Players’ Tribune.
The rest of Europe could be just about to find out how great.
Karim Benzema heads a long line of talented footballers who have come through at Lyon
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