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Cutting the mustard - Meet Ligue 1 rising star Wesley Said

1:24 AM SGT 21/12/17
Wesley Said Dijon
The 22-year-old starred yet again at the weekend and is already enjoying the most prolific campaign of his short career

Dijon’s 3-0 victory over Lille on Saturday catapulted them into the top half of the Ligue 1 standings for the first time ever.

The Burgundy side have played three previous campaigns in the elite level, but never before have they enjoyed the heady heights of a single-digit position.

Olivier Dall’oglio’s side have fired their way into the upper part of the standings thanks to a series of sparkling home performances, with five wins in their last five at Stade Gaston Gerrard. 

There were concerns ahead of the weekend’s game that without leading attacker Julio Tavares they may struggle, yet Dijon called instead upon red-hot youngster Wesley Said to lead the charge against struggling Lille.

The 22-year-old made a terrific impression. With 12 minutes on the clock, he latched onto a perfect ball over the top from Mehdi Abeid to volley his side into a spectacular lead and he doubled his personal tally a short while later with a low effort from the edge of the area.

Fode Ballo-Toure’s own goal before the break completed the rout and broke a sequence of eight Dijon tallies, four of which had been scored by Said.

The first half of the season has been a slow burn for the winger, who arrived from Rennes in the summer, but over the last month, he has exploded spectacularly, chalking up four goals and two assists in his last five outings.

His performance against Lille was perhaps the best he has made in a professional career that started in August 2013, when he debuted against the same opponents for Rennes as an 18-year-old.

Said came through the academy at Rennes, having arrived as an 11-year-old. By the time he was 15, he was a prolific centre-forward, with Patrick Rapillon, the youth director, declaring in France Football: “You can never be sure of anything, but if he doesn’t make it as a professional, I’ll ask to be fired right away.”

After making his professional bow, loan spells at Laval and Dijon in Ligue 2 followed, but it was back in Brittany last term that he began to make his mark.

Though he was often a substitute, he scored six times in all competitions and did enough to persuade Dijon to part with €1.5 million in the summer as they aimed to replace Lois Diony, who was their outstanding player last term. 

Dall’oglio’s men have had a habit of finding bargains in the transfer market in recent years, and Said is showing signs that he may prove to be another.

The style of Dijon’s play was one of the reasons that Said returned.

“Defensively, the coach asks us to help the team as much as possible, to put in an effort, but going forward we have a lot of freedom,” Said said. “He lets us create things. He made a lot of attacking signings in the summer, but we all have the same profile: We are ball players. We just need to click.”

It has been a steady adaption process for the former France Under-21 international, but as the Christmas break approaches there is little doubt that he has now found his feet at a club he had left little more than a year earlier.

“I’m not an attacker who is obsessed with the number of goals I’m going to score,” he admitted in an interview with So Foot last season. “But I know I still have to improve with my final action.”

On the evidence of recent weeks, he has done just that, elevating his game to a level that it has not previously touched.

Dijon may have set the bar purely at the level of survival this season, but if their young attacker continues in this vein, they can begin to aim for a more permanent spot in the top 10.