The Ligue 1 season was only a couple of minutes old when Moussa Doumbia made his mark for newly-promoted Reims.
The Champagne side’s first signing of the summer was also the first to make a big impression as he gathered a long diagonal pass, cut in off his left wing and let rip with a shot that found the very corner of the Nice net to set his side up for an impressive 1-0 victory away from home.
Since then, Reims and Doumbia have set about making the top flight their home. They are firmly ensconced in the middle of the table, with 25 points from 18 matches and in position to challenge for a European berth at the end of the season if they can maintain their form.
While it has been their defensive work that has been primarily lauded, their efforts at the other end of the field should not go overlooked and in Doumbia they have a player who is quietly making a positive impression in France.
The 24-year-old already boasts impressive experience for a career that started in his native Mali with Real Bamako before he moved on to FK Rostov in Russia.
“I spent four great seasons there but it took me time to adapt,” he admitted. “My best season was my second; I needed time to impose myself in that new environment.”
An attacking midfielder, generally deployed on the flanks but versatile enough to feature in the middle, Doumbia played a significant role as Rostov finished second to CSKA Moscow in the 2015-16 season, notching three goals as he helped them into a Champions League spot.
He was given his opportunity to shine against the likes of Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and PSV, but just as he seemed poised to cement his place in the team he was struck by a bout of bad luck.
“After the Champions League it became more complicated. I injured my shoulder and lost my place,” he said.
After a loan spell at Arsenal Tule, he returned to Rostov but never broke back into the team and was happy to move on in the summer on a free transfer, having sounded out compatriots Hamari Traore and Youssouf Kone, both former Reims players, about his prospective team.
“I wanted to know that the values of the club were in line with mine and if the structure was good,” he said.
Moreover, he believes that the style of the French top flight will allow his game to flourish and has committed himself to Reims until 2022.
“In Russia, we defended a lot. Tactically, it’s very good and there are few spaces,” he said. “But the French league is more interesting technically and there are better players and more space.”
Quick and enterprising in his play, it has not taken him long to catch the eye in France. Indeed, his success in the first half of the season is all the more remarkable given that he had not played competitively for eight months before joining Reims.
There are, however, aspects of his game that he knows he must improve, with his goal tally something he is eager to increase over the coming months.
After notching early for Reims against Nice, his next goal did not arrive until December 15, with a super sixth-minute strike in a 2-1 victory over Strasbourg.
That goal helped him top the Ligue 1 Performance Index for that weekend, marking him out as the league’s outstanding player over that round of games and emphasising the undoubted potential that he holds.
Now earning the game time he needs to develop, expect to see the wideman’s performances come on leaps and bounds in the near future