Living the dream playing for his home-town club and flourishing under new coach Rudi Garcia, 19-year-old Marseille midfielder Maxime Lopez looks set for a sparkling future.
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With three assists and a goal to his name in 12 appearances since his Ligue 1 debut in August, it is little wonder Marseille attacking midfielder Maxime Lopez is widely considered one of the hottest prospects in France.
Name: Maxime Lopez
Debut: 21 August 2016 v Guingamp
Position: attacking midfielder
Born: 4 December 1997
Preferred foot: right
They say …
"He is a player who likes to touch the ball a lot and has the skill and vision to do so. He can play one-touch football. He is mature for such a young man; what I like about him is that he has character."
Rudi Garcia, Marseille coach
"He is a good player who likes to touch the ball, in the Spanish mould. He's a nice player and I hope he stays at OM for as long as possible."
Samir Nasri, former Marseille midfielder
Born in Marseille to a Spanish father and Algerian mother, Lopez joined the Marseille academy in 2010 from local side Burel FC. He signed professional terms in July 2014 and in August last year made his senior debut as a substitute against Guingamp. He had previously scored once in six appearances – aged just 15 – during OM's 2013/14 UEFA Youth League campaign.
Playing style …
Standing just 167cm tall and weighing only 58kg, Lopez is a slight figure who relies on extraordinary technical skill and vision. He rarely wastes a pass and is always looking to set up his team-mates.
Shades of …
Lopez is often compared to Nasri as the now Sevilla midfielder also came out of the Marseille academy. Like Nasri, Lopez has intuitive movement on the pitch and knows how to use space despite his slight frame.
Eureka moment …
Although he provided an assist during that debut against Guingamp, it is only since Garcia's arrival in October 2016 that Lopez has really started to flourish. He was 19 years and six days old when he scored his maiden goal in December, having turned out for France Under-20s in a friendly against the Netherlands a month earlier.
Best-case scenario …
Tied to OM until 2019, Lopez recently hinted that a new contract was being discussed; he looks to have another few years in him before he goes abroad. He is eligible to represent France, Spain or Algeria.
He says …
"When you're 19 and born in Marseille, playing for Olympique de Marseille, with the likes of Florian Thauvin, Bafétimbi Gomis and Lassana Diarra, you can't help but be happy. It was a dream for me to play for my team."
"I'm a player who needs to have the ball at my feet. I can defend, but I'm not a warrior."
"Honestly, I got chills. When I was younger, I was in those stands chanting names. Hearing mine chanted was something huge. It's too early to speak about success, though."