The summer transfer window has come back around and, with it, the eyes of the European elite descend once again onto the League of Talents. As the only one of the traditional big five leagues to make a collective profit from transfers since the summer of 2012, Ligue 1 is used to offering up their best to the giants of Spain, Italy, Germany and England. It was only three years ago when OGC Nice sold their tricky, 22-year-old, French winger Allan Saint-Maximin to Newcastle. This year, they have another. Amine Gouiri has already caught the eye of German heavyweights Borussia Dortmund, as well as the domestic champions PSG. Before the transfer window closes, it would be a surprise if there were not more suitors.
It’s no surprise Nice are fielding interest for their 22-year-old. Since his 2020 arrival having graduated Lyon’s academy, he’s impressed, both in his style and his attacking output. Over the last two years, Gouiri has produced 28 goals and 18 assists for Les Aiglons, registering a goal contribution almost every other game. While his numbers are good, the forward also comfortably passes the eye test. Gouiri is, at times, a joy to watch. His pace, touch and balance provide him with the means to find a way through or round countless defenders. His dribbling and finishing are assets. As a result, the Lyon academy graduate has played both in the centre of the attack as well as down the wing, most commonly the left.
His qualities have been seen on a multitude of occasions over the past two seasons. But a perfect example came against FC Versailles in the semi-final of the Coupe de France, which ended in a 2-0 victory for the Niçois. Having scored the goal to take the lead against his fourth-division opponents, Gouiri produced a marvellous piece of skill to create the second. Surrounded by three Versailles defenders, he spun out of traffic with a beautifully executed roulette and knocked the ball forward into space. With the time he had earned, he found his strike partner Kasper Dolberg in acres of space, and the game was sealed by the 73rd minute.
Such attacking capabilities contributed to Nice’s success this season. Indeed, the prosperity of the club seems to correlate with Gouiri’s form. At the end of January, Nice sat second in Ligue 1, with a seven-point gap to Strasbourg in fourth. At the same time, Gouiri had scored 10 goals, the third most in the league and just as much as Kylian Mbappé. Since then, however, his only goals have come in the Coupe de France. Simultaneously, Nice slipped out of the Champions League spots and into the Europa Conference League spots, finishing fifth. Gouiri’s dip in form was unfortunate, but his statistics are nothing to be ashamed of. Over the 2021/22 season, he contributed to as many league goals (19) as both Neymar and Raheem Sterling.
But Gouiri has long been on course for greatness. He began to make noise in 2017, at the Under 17 European Championships with France, where he finished top scorer, with seven goals. Since then, he’s progressed through the youth squads, scoring 32 goals in 31 appearances (U17 – U20). He now features alongside the likes of Eduardo Camavinga, Malo Gusto and Khéphren Thuram with the under 21s, known in France as Les Espoirs. And Gouiri can indeed be hopeful of his international future. Scoring in each of this month’s European qualifiers, he will no doubt be targeting the first team, despite the strength of the competition. Should he be picked up by a Champions League side, he will have the opportunity to prove his worth and force the hand of Didier Deschamps.
While the forward is under contract at Nice until 2024, it may prove a challenge for the side to keep a hold of him, even if new coach Lucien Favre has stated he plans to. His youth, eye-catching style and promising statistics all contribute to the interest he generates. Amine Gouiri will certainly be one to watch for the rest of 2022.
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