Mercato – Youcef Belaïli, the attraction of Stade Brestois, a “gifted” with an “abnormal career”

It was a tsunami that drowned the harbor of Brest on Monday. An unexpected digital wave that surprised the Breton club. A torrent of followers, caused by a man: Youcef Belaïli. Before the first rumors about contacts between Stade Brestois and the Algerian international, Brest had around 440,000 subscribers on its various social media accounts. Now he flirts with the two million. « We were really surprised at the scale, on the accounts it was like in Las Vegas, it was running on its own“, explained to AFP a spokesperson for the club.
Since then, the digital Belaïli-mania has not calmed down. At first glance, it is difficult to understand such enthusiasm for a 30-year-old player, an Algerian international of course, but with almost zero experience in Europe. But with him, forget the rational and the checkboxes to reach the highest level. Belaïli is a romantic story, a succession of surprising choices, missed appointments and successive redemptions. That of a hope adored by all who will end up being rejected by many before becoming a national hero. That of a « gifted« with extraordinary talent but with the »abnormal career“, according to Mohamed Brahdji, journalist for DZ Foot.

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Youcef Belaïli during his presentation at Stade Brestois

Credit: Getty Images

2014, the first turning point

« He is a player who emerges in the early 2010she rewinds. He started in the club of his city, Mouloudia d’Oran. We saw this phenomenon happen and, very quickly, he stood out as a rather unique player due to the flashes of which he was capable.« . Very quickly, Oran falls in love with his prince, decisive despite his young age. At 20, Europe is already watching him out of the corner of his eye but it is Espérance de Tunis who recovers the jewel , still to be polished.In Tunisia, Belaïli confirms all the good that we think of him: associated with Youssef Msakni, local prodigy, he makes the good days of the Tunisian giant but aims even higher.However, 2014 already marks a turning point. At the end of the contract with Tunis, he must take the plunge.

In Caen, already on the file in 2012, we are waiting impatiently. The player even shows off with a Stade Malherbe jersey, flocked with the number 10. Missed. It is finally a return to the country that Belaïli chooses, by joining USM Algiers. « At the time, the club was managed by a construction tycoon very close to former President Bouteflika with the idea of ​​making it a sort of Dream team, by buying the best Algerian players, even if it meant overpaying them, recounts Mohamed Brahdji. Youcef arrives there and, in retrospect, we say to ourselves that it was a mistake« .

Because if Belaïli still manages to carry the club to the African C1 final, that he knows his first selections under the direction of Christian Gourcuff in 2015, he grows less quickly than expected. « Maybe at this moment, he relies a little on his intrinsic qualities and does not manage to pass a stage to be able to sublimate himselfbelieves our colleague. At that time, he fell into certain faults and after a match in August 2015, he tested positive for cocaine.« . Another turning point. Or rather a split in his career.

Angers, the question mark

Sanctioned by four years of suspension, Belaïli becomes a plague of Algerian football even if he admits having smoked a chicha without knowing the content. However, he is fighting to have his sanction reduced, reduced to two years by the CAS. It is in this complicated context, after crossing the desert, that the Algerian landed in Angers in 2017. « At the time, he trained alone, became an Algerian football pariahrecalls Mohamed Brahdji. Saïd Chabanne, who obviously has a special fondness for Algerian football, wanted to give it a second chance. It was a favorite of the president but the sports division, with Olivier Pickeu and Stéphane Moulin, was not necessarily on the same wavelength. He is sent to reserve to fix up but there was a form of misunderstanding between the two parties« .

Youcef Belaïli in the jersey of Angers, a marriage that never took

Credit: Getty Images

In the Angevin workforce, it is an enigma that has remained unanswered. « Just a jog, it was a hassle for him, the physios wondered how they were going to manage to get him back on his feetrewound Loïc Puyo, his teammate in Angers, for So Foot. We had heard all the stories about him, we knew he was out of shape… Several guys in the locker room wondered how this guy could have arrived in Ligue 1« . As a result, Belaïli only plays one small League Cup match. It’s hard to get a clear idea. Back home, or almost, with a comeback to Espérance de Tunis.

While we think his career has stalled, Youcef le Fennec becomes Belaïli the phoenix. In a burning context, the Algerian finds an inner flame that few knew about him. Between January 2018 and 2019, he was one of the pillars of Espérance Tunis, won two consecutive African Champions Leagues and was even voted the best player on the African continent in 2019. Faced with this irresistible resurrection, Belmadi could not remain indifferent .

Belmadi believes in him, Europe is cold

« At the time of his induction meeting with Kheïreddine Zetch, president of the federation, he asks him if Belaïli is on any blacklist and if he is prohibited from selecting him, which is not the case.explains the journalist from DZ Foot. From there, Belmadi wants to make him one of the essential players in his system, which will end with victory at CAN 2019. It’s really a very strong decision at that time. Since then, Belaïli in selection, it is about fifteen assists, six goals in less than thirty matches« .

Youcef Belaili (Algeria, Stade Brestois)

Credit: Getty Images

At the Fennecs, he becomes the indispensable counterpart of Riyad Mahrez in the game. In club, on the other hand, his career choices remain exotic despite touches in L1, in particular at OM. « He is a player who has not been able to manage the sidelines of football, the relationship with agents, exclusivity mandatesadvance Mohamed Brahdji to explain all his surprising choices where his father, closest adviser, also weighed a lot. It’s a bit like the cliché of the player who signs mandates for everyone, imagining that the more he signs, the more chances he has that one of them will succeed. At European club level, we did not know which interlocutor to speak to« .

First Saudi Arabia and then Qatar look like the perfect host country for a comfortable salary. But, last December, his contract was terminated for mysterious reasons. No doubt his goal in the Arab Cup semi-final against Qatar and his very vindictive celebration weighed in the balance. In contact with Montpellier, Belaïli finally landed in Brest on the gong. Holder against Rennes on Sunday (2-0), he has not yet been able to show qualities on which everyone is unanimous.
« He is an extraordinary talent« , believes Belmadi. « He has all the qualities: power, technique, ingenuity, flair, good strike, summarized for Goal Hubert Velud, his coach at USM Algiers. I sincerely thought he could go to a club like PSG, OM or OL. A player with great potential. Stronger than Riyad Mahrez, in my opinion« . »I love his madness on the pitchadmitted Nabil Bentaleb. He is able to attempt and succeed in incredible gestures. »

It is this explosive cocktail that has made Belaïli so unique in the eyes of Algerian fans. Almost everyone ended up falling head over heels for this instinctive player, symbolized by his extraordinary goal against Morocco, a 40-meter half-volley full of spontaneity. In Brest, we hope to quickly fall under its spell. History that the Belaïli-mania is not confined only to social networks but also submerges the L1.

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