In Brazil, you get a single name. In France, you’re dubbed the next Zidane — a symbol of the hope cast upon every French teen talent that hints at stardom. Samir Nasri, Gael Kakuta, Yoann Gourcuff, Florian Thauvin. About a team’s worth of prospects have had to live with the label, none of whom have done as much to justify it as another French star.
Like others who’ve shared that burden, Louisa Nécib is no Zizou — also a decisive midfielder of Algerian ancestry — yet in 2011, when she first wrestled international attention for her near unmatched technique, the comparison seemed justified for more than heritage alone. At the last Women’s World Cup, Nécib captivated worldwide audiences from the opening moments of France’s first game against Nigeria. Leading a Bleues side that played the tournament’s most entertaining style, Nécib put herself, as well as France, on the international women’s soccer radar.
That was four years ago, when a 23-year-old Nécib looked poised to be the soccer hipster’s It Girl. Now, a World Cup cycle later, France is still waiting for its big breakthrough — the jump that would take it from plucky challenger to a serious contender for major titles. And at club level, a once hegemonic Lyon has found life more competitive, given the Division 1 Féminine’s emergence of Paris Saint-Germain.
That, however, only makes Nécib more intriguing. Amid a highlight reel of long-distance goals and a control on the ball that’ll make any misogynist question his dogma, Nécib’s been unable to take France to the next level. At Lyon, the recent challenges from PSG and, in Europe, Wolfsburg have created a feeling that the era of OL is fading.
But what if that’s not true? What if, at the time when both sides need a final push, she embraced the moniker? What if her club’s recent Champions League elimination to its French rival ignited a fire, one that carried over into Canada. What if France’s recent victory over Germany was a sign of what the team can still become?
What if Nécib can still become “the next Zidane” and more? What if she took that complete package on the field — one that’s produced 22 goals in 101 caps, a 2013 Puskas Award nomination, an All-Star nod at the last World Cup — and met us back in July 2011, when everybody thought the next it big thing would be that 23-year-old phenom? What if she took the mantle, devoured it, owned it, then met us back here, on the brink of the 2015 World Cup?
It could still happen. With Nécib, almost anything can.
The Fake numbers
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