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From €70m Liverpool target to unwanted at €30m – how Fekir’s value has plummeted in one year

14:00 GMT+3 05/07/2019
Nabil Fekir Lyon Liverpool
A year on from his failed move to Anfield, the future of the world champion remains unclear after a difficult season with Lyon

Less than a year ago, Nabil Fekir was on top of the world, having helped France to victory at Russia 2018.

There was the shadow of a collapsed transfer to Liverpool hanging over him but even after that €70 million (£62m/$78m) deal broke down at the eleventh hour, he seemed a player firmly in the ascendancy as top clubs all over Europe positioned themselves to swoop.

Sadly, it has proven to be a complicated year for the OL captain, who will turn 26 on July 18.

No doubt there were some dizzying highs, such as a goal and an assist as the Rhone club shocked Manchester City 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium on the opening night of the 2018-19 Champions League group stage, but it was a campaign riddled with inconsistency, mirroring that of the team as a whole.

His numbers reflect his dip in form, going from 40 appearances, 23 goals and eight assists in 2017-18, to 39 outings, 12 goals and nine assists last term.

There was a notable drop off towards the end of the season, which ended amid a 10-game goalless streak and saw Lyon miss out on the silverware that they craved, painfully losing at home to Rennes in the Coupe de France semi-final.

A succession of minor injuries hampered his level but former head coach Bruno Genesio, who left the club at the end of his contract, believes that, mentally, the player had found it difficult to recover from the blow of missing out on his move to the Reds.

“I think he was very frustrated with his non-transfer to Liverpool at the start of the season,” he told RMC. “He went to the World Cup, he had some injuries.

"He certainly did not feel strong enough to play a leading role, which he had done in the previous year, as the playmaker.”

This seems to justify Liverpool turning down the player, who missed a full year of his career due to a serious knee injury, on medical grounds, and with his contract up in only a year, his price has now, inevitably, been slashed.

But for a man who was attracting attention from many of Europe’s biggest clubs, it is remarkable the extent that he has been so peripheral in transfer talk this summer, especially given his value is likely to be around half of what it was a matter of months ago.

AC Milan have been discussed as one possible destination, though their lack of European football complicates a move to San Siro, while the Chinese Super League was mooted before being quickly dismissed by the player’s entourage.

Arsenal, meanwhile, are reported to have been in contact with Lyon over the player – but only if Mesut Ozil was to move on, something that looks distinctly improbable.

Genesio, though, feels that it is time for Fekir to start afresh.

“He’s come to the end of a cycle in Lyon,” the coach argued. “I think he needs to experience a fresh challenge, to push his limits and to be questioned. We always need a personal challenge in our careers.”

Regardless of where Fekir plays next term, though, his test will be to win back his reputation after a mediocre season by the measure of what is expected of him.

Former Marseille, Newcastle and Aston Villa defender Habib Beye believes Fekir would be best advised leading Lyon into a new era, with Brazilian duo Juninho and Sylvinho having been installed as sporting director and coach, respectively.

“With the condition of his knee and the problem with Liverpool, it’s going to be difficult for Lyon to get €60m (£54m/$68m),” the Canal + analyst said. “But with this Lyon side, set up to maximise Fekir, they can do it. When he’s in shape, he’s an extraordinary player. Juninho can revive him.

“Fekir, at his usual level, is a very good player and Lyon must keep him instead of selling for €20m (£18m/$22.5m). He’s a Champions League player and it’s important to have someone like that to count on his qualities.”

Having already offloaded Ferland Mendy to Real Madrid for €48m (£41m/$54m) and Tanguy Ndombele to Tottenham for €62m (£56m/$70m), Lyon are not compelled to sell.

“Nabil could leave, but not under just any conditions,” president Jean-Michel Aulas told RMC. “We’re not in a Care Bear world, we know there’s only a year left on his contract so it won’t be the same price if there were four or five, as was the case with Ndombele.

“We’re in discussions with people who are not in a hurry to get a deal done because they want to negotiate well. But we don’t need money. And we want to keep him if we can’t find someone to replace him.”

While Lyon would be willing sellers at the correct price, they certainly want to avoid a scenario that would see the academy graduate leave in a year for nothing. As such, a contract extension is likely to be discussed in the weeks ahead if there is no positive transfer movement.

Fekir should be about to hit his peak years, but instead of being able to focus on his football during the crucial pre-season period, he has his long-term future to concern himself with.

It is another unwelcome hurdle to overcome as he seeks to regain his best level, and with no quick resolution in sight, it is another saga that is set to dog one of Ligue 1’s most naturally gifted players throughout the summer.