Marseille youngster Maxime Lopes has been labelled the ‘new Samir Nasri’ by the media, but perhaps a more fitting comparison is that with Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Verratti.
Already the young OM star has established himself in the heart of Rudi Garcia’s midfield and at 18 years old is become a major building block of the coach’s attempt to reconstruct the Stade Velodrome side into a team capable of challenging for the Champions League.
Lopes had not played in Ligue 1 until the arrival of the former Roma boss; barely a month later, he looks like he has always played at this level.
The similarities with Verratti are quite startling. Both debuted in Le Championnat at roughly the same age, albeit with Lopes a year younger; both are of similar stature and both have enviable technical abilities on the ball. They demand to be the hub of their respective sides, ever seeking possession and always demanding a pass.
“He is an active, technical player, who rarely loses possession and likes to touch the ball a lot,” Garcia comment last week. “He needs to touch the ball a lot and that is what I ask him because his quality is to make play the others.”
Lopes has certainly done that during his brief stint in Marseille’s starting XI. Indeed, over the course of his first three matches for OM, he boasts an average of 120 touches per game. At the same stage of Verratti’s career in Paris, he merely had 72 touches. Remarkably, no-one in Ligue 1 has seen as much possession over the course of the last month as Garcia’s shiny new playmaker.
Last Sunday, against Caen in a 1-0 victory, his talents were firmly to the fore. He made 129 touches over the course of the match – a club record since recording of these statistics began – and orchestrated the pace of his side beautifully as a goal from Rolando ultimately gave them their first league victory over the Garcia era.
After more than a year of rank mediocrity in Provence, Lopes is the on-field symbol of their new hope.