AS Saint-Étienne's talent factory has produced some big names in recent years but some reckon the best is yet to come: meet teenage striker Allan Saint-Maximin.
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UEFA.com continues its weekly wonderkid feature by looking at AS Saint-Étienne's Allan Saint-Maximin, a 17-year-old forward already making his mark in Ligue 1.
Name: Allan Saint-Maximin
Club: AS Saint-Étienne
Debut: 1 September 2013
Date of birth: 12 March 1997
Preferred foot: right
They say ...
"He still has to prove himself and has a lot to work on. But he is a player on whom the club and I are placing high expectations."
Christophe Galtier, St-Étienne coach
"There is nothing impossible to him. You will never have him say 'I cannot make it through' a game situation. He may be surrounded by three players but he is still going to try something. He has no fear. He always keeps cool and never overthinks."
Bertrand Rebours, head of AC Boulogne-Billancourt's youth academy
"I noticed he had something special when I saw him walk for the first time. He was always a step ahead of other kids, in terms of speaking as well as moving."
Alex Saint-Maximin, Allan's father
Born in the Paris suburbs, Saint-Maximin joined St-Étienne from Boulogne-Billancourt in 2011. Last season he won the national Under-17 championship with Les Verts, also appearing five times for the senior side. This term the attacker has more than doubled that tally of first-team matches, catching the eye of leading scouts and prompting St-Étienne to extend his contract until 2019.
Playing style ...
Swift and powerful, Saint-Maximin can play as a No9 and on either flank. He likes to have the ball at his feet and run at opponents. The teenager also boasts a thunderous strike.
Shades of ...
His playing style and clever moves carry a hint of South America but his strength, aggression and focus are 100% European. There are occasional flashes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Arjen Robben – but the overall picture is pretty unique.
Eureka moment ...
Saint-Maximin's second start of 2014/15 was away to then-leaders Olympique de Marseille, where on 53 minutes he produced his first Ligue 1 assist for Jonathan Brison – almost twice his age. The sense he belongs at the pinnacle of the game was underlined with an assured post-match television interview that suggested he has been doing them for years.
Best-case scenario ...
Everyone at St-Étienne is convinced Saint-Maximin is destined for a bright future at a leading European side, yet he still has to learn his trade. Who will get him after that? Nobody knows, but as with many other St-Étienne graduates – like Kurt Zouma, Josuha Guilavogui and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – he will never forget his time with the 1975/76 European Cup runners-up.
He says ...
"St-Étienne are the club of my heart. I want to grow here."