Ligue 1 – Max Gradel Profile

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Michy Batshuayi and his brother Aaron Leya Iseka have placed a bet. The Valencia forward has wagered that he will score more goals than his sibling, who plays in Ligue 1 for Toulouse, before the end of the season, with the loser to take the other out for dinner.

The on-loan Chelsea forward, though, may not have reckoned that Leya Iseka has a secret weapon alongside him: winger Max Gradel.

Now 30, the Ivory Coast international started his career in England with Leicester before moving on to Leeds. After a successful stint at Elland Road, he moved to Saint-Etienne, where he earned his first taste of top-flight football and ultimately a switch to Bournemouth.

Serious injury prevented him making the impact he might have with Eddie Howe’s men and prompted a move back to France, this time with Toulouse, where he switched initially on loan but then on a full-time basis this summer.

The estimated fee of just €2 million may prove to be a bargain in the weeks ahead, particularly as his performances last season suggested he was destined for better things than a team that has narrowly scraped away from relegation for the third season in four, this time via a playoff.

“There are many people surprise that I’ve stayed in Toulouse, but I was seduced by the project and felt that the club wanted to show a new face and really move on,” he said in August. “At my age, feeling comfortable at a club is very, very important, and that’s what prevailed in my decision to remain with Toulouse.”

So far, it has been a profitable call, both for player and club.

Alain Casanova took charge of TFC for a second spell in the summer and has made TFC a more dynamic, offensive team. Manu Garcia has arrived on loan from Manchester City, winger Matthieu Dossevi has joined up from Metz and, of course, Leya Iseka has been recruited from Anderlecht, but Gradel remains the key cog.

The statistics reflect how important the Ivory Coast international has been to his side, which has netted five times in their first four fixtures – around average in France’s top flight.

He leads his team in a litany of categories, most obviously goals, of which he has tallied two.

However, the winger has also attempted 50% more shots on goal than any other member of the squad (9), has nearly twice as many dribbles as anyone else (26) and is also setting the standard in terms of touches (263).

Indeed, perhaps the only major category he does not find himself out in front in is chances created, though with four he is only one back of Dossevi.

It would be unfair to suggest that he is carrying his side single-handedly forward, but there is little doubt that he is shouldering the brunt of the work.

With nine points from a possible 12, Toulouse have made an excellent start to the season, suggesting that the recent relegation battles may become a thing of the past.

And though Gradel’s efforts are unlikely to lead to any trophies this term, if he maintains his early-season form, it could be enough to win Leya Iseka an all-expenses paid dinner date with Batshuayi.

So far, the Toulouse man is 1-0 up in the score.


About Author

A football journalist specialising in the French and Scottish game, Robin has been writing professionally for over a decade. His career highlights include attending World Cups in Brazil and Russia, and Euro 2016 in France.

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