Facing PSG this Saturday evening at La Beaujoire, Alban Lafont pulled out all the stops by disgusting Mbappé, Messi, Neymar and all the others. Just to remind you that you don’t play your seventh pro season at just 23 by chance.
How would ordinary mortals have reacted after releasing such a recital? This is the question that was on everyone’s mind having had the privilege of attending Alban Lafont’s match against Paris Saint-Germain. For a moment, anyone would have liked to slip into the shoes of the Nantes goalkeeper to see what it feels like to be in a state of grace. What emotions it gives, too, to draw on the faces of some of the best players in the world of crocodile tears. To force Marco Verratti to punch the Nantes turf out of spite. This Homeric fight delivered and won by Lafont against the Parisian offensive armada will be a landmark: for Nantes, which by bringing down Paris temporarily settles in fifth place in Ligue 1. And especially for him. For this Alban who gives the impression of already being an experienced goalkeeper and ready for the very high level. At 23 years blown less than a month ago, it’s more than a compliment.
Story of a recital
To recite his score to (almost) perfection, you need a thunderous introduction. While the smoke fog was barely dissipating, it was in front of a Juan Bernat launched into the area that Lafont shone. Then it was Leo Messi who stumbled on him. Then Kylian Mbappé. Then Idrissa Gueye on a new face-to-face. Half an hour of play has not yet passed, Neymar has not yet tried his luck and will in turn be disillusioned for the first time against the last rampart of Nantes. In the second half, the Brazilian will find the key to deceive the vigilance of the hitherto invincible Lafont before being ridiculed on penalty by the player trained at TFC.
Beyond an obvious lack of realism of the Parisians, it is especially necessary to point the finger at the performance of the French goalkeeper who inevitably affected this poor offensive form of the leader. In the second half, Mbappé for example tried several times to dribble him rather than shoot in first intention and it is far from trivial. More than his saves, Lafont was also impeccable in his reading of the game and his placement: it was his exit that pushed Mbappé not to fit in an ideal position in front of goal at 73and minute of play, and another which prevents Messi from spinning on goal on a magnificent opening. In total, Alban Lafont made nine saves against Paris, with the added bonus of having stopped three of the last four penalties stopped in the French championship. A monstrous performance, in line with what the former Toulouse player has been offering since the end of last season, logically welcomed at a press conference after the match by Antoine Kombouaré: “Everyone is very strong, but Alban in particular (…) He has been gaining momentum since the end of last season. He plays very, very great matches, and if we have this ranking today and we are very strong defensively, there is a large part of his work that should be highlighted. »
Why not the Blues?
In the spans of Beaujoire, Lafont played it modestly in front of the shower of praise that fell on him: “I live it like a championship match: it’s PSG, it’s more publicized, but in the end there are only three points at stake. Every game, I try to give the maximum, and today it went well. » But still ? “Yes, it’s one of my best games since I started as a pro (…) As long as my parents are happy with me and the coach too, I’m fine, I’m happy. » Not an ounce of bragging or flaming in sight. And for good reason: Alban Lafont is only at the start of his career, but already has a lot of experience on the clock.
Since his first steps at TFC in 2015 at 16 years and 10 months, in the shoes of the youngest starting goalkeeper in L1 history, he has known praise, Italy and Fiorentina where his explosion has not had place, before returning to Nantes and working in silence until those happy months. Less than a year from the World Cup in Qatar, behind Hugo Lloris and Mike Maignan, a place is up for grabs and the man who kept the cages of the French U16s at Les Espoirs could have dreams of the Gulf. In the meantime, Lafont is laying the foundations for a bright near future that was already promised to him in the old world: “It’s the best, it’s magnificent, we’re happy, but we have to remain humble. » Hint: it is between these whispered words that the key to success is hidden.
By Andrea Chazy, with Jérémie Baron at La Beaujoire