Alban Lafont had over 100 senior appearances to his name when he left Toulouse for Fiorentina in July. He’d only celebrated his 19th birthday in January – and he’s a goalkeeper.
The Viola will believe they have snapped up a future great in the France youth international, who arrived at a snip with an initial outlay of less than €10 million for the precocious teenager born in Burkina Faso.
The youngest ever goalkeeper to play in Ligue 1 when he made his debut at the age of just 16 years and 310 days, he kept an impressive 10 clean sheets last season as Toulouse fought, successfully, against the drop in France.
It’s been quite a rise for a young man who less than half a decade ago was intent on putting the ball in the back of the net rather than keeping it out.
“Five years ago, he was still playing as a striker and scoring goals,” his father told Midi Libre shortly after Alban took his first strides in the game in 2015.
Indeed, it was his early love of scoring goals that saw him become an admirer of Premier League club Arsenal.
“Since I was little, I’ve really liked Arsenal,” he admitted. “Since the days of Robin van Persie, in fact. I really liked his style and thought he was elevating the whole team’s level.
"I wasn’t a goalkeeper at the time, but even if you’re a keeper, you can love attackers. And it is through him that Arsenal made an impression on me.”
Seemingly not big enough of an impression to convince him to move to north London, though. The Gunners were keen to bring Lafont to England this past summer but the youngster saw a better opportunity in Florence.
"Why did I refuse Arsenal? I am very happy to be at Fiorentina and I am convinced that here I am more likely to progress,” he said.
Lafont was immediately made No.1 by coach Stefano Pioli, who has assembled both one of the youngest and one of the most exciting teams in Europe this season.
The young goalkeeper has made an impressive 39 saves in his 14 Serie A appearances this term, with a save percentage rate of 72 per cent. Only one custodian in Italy has bettered his nine catches and he’s kept three clean sheets. All of which are highly respectable numbers for a 19-year-old goalkeeper of a mid-table side.
"I like his calmness,” says former Nantes, PSG and France goalkeeper Mikael Landreau, who’s record Lafont beat to become Ligue 1’s youngest. “He makes quality decisions and his positioning is surprisingly good. A great career is ahead of him.”