The big forward was nearly sold to Galatasaray in the summer and was not immediately central to Miguel Cardoso’s plans at Stade de la Beaujoire, where his somewhat ungainly look did not fit with the possession-based game the Portuguese tried to implement.
Nevertheless, his goals carved him a niche under the Portuguese in a team otherwise worryingly mute.
Cardoso was sacked earlier this month, and with Vahid Halilhodzic now in charge, there is no prospect of Sala being dropped. And his stock rose once again after his stellar display against TFC, which took his tally for the season to seven and earned him top place on the Opta Index, which measures the performance of every player in Ligue 1, giving them a score from 100.
Sala, the ugly duckling in Nantes a matter of weeks ago, earned a total of 99.4.
Of course, such a player can scarcely perform such heroics alone, with Brazilian winger Gabriel Boschilia, out on loan from Monaco as he continues to build his fitness after serious injury, complicit in Sala’s hat-trick.
Having been given regular game time, the 22-year-old is beginning to show glimpses of his best form and after creating Sala’s opening goal, he added a second before the break with a deft finish.
His efforts saw him take fourth place on the Index this week.
One of the players finishing above him, Lebo Mothiba, accounted for Boschilia’s parent club Monaco, who were under the guidance of Thierry Henry for the first time.
The principality outfit were rather luckless overall, but were put out of their misery six minutes from time by Lebo Mothiba. The South African had the freedom of Stade de la Meineu to run through and grab a second for his side in a 2-1 Strasbourg win shortly after coming on. He took second on the ranking.
Unsurprisingly, given their 5-0 victory over Amiens, PSG players figure strongly in the top 10 this week. Statistically, their best-performing player was Julian Draxler, whose third goal started a late avalanche as the visiting side disintegrated under the hosts’ pressure late on. His was a rather simple effort, an unmarked header into the corner, but his overall display was formidable in the No.10 role most often occupied by Neymar this season.
The Brazilian was rested for this encounter, but PSG showed their strength in depth going forward as teenagers Moussa Diaby and Kylian Mbappe both forced their way into the foremost positions. Indeed, Diaby’s solo effort showed that there is still great quality coming through the Parisians’ youth ranks.
His late goal – the third he has scored this season – secured the points for OL, who did not have it easy against the newly-promoted team.
The difficulties they faced were highlighted by the fact that goalkeeper Anthony Lopes made it into the top 10 of the Index, producing a number of good saves to keep a lively visiting attack at bay.
Teji Savanier’s long-range shooting was especially good, but the midfielder’s all-round showing saw him edge into the top 10 after a lengthy suspension, while Gaetan Laborde rounds off the ranking after he found the net against Bordeaux on Sunday.
The highlight next weekend is undoubtedly Marseille’s Sunday clash with PSG, but plugging the gaps against a team with so many different offensive options promises to be a huge test for Rudi Garcia’s men.