Stephane M’bia: From relegation to history making
At first glance, the title shows a player that has had one heck of an odd career, and to think that would be right. Stephane M’bia has been at the forefront of personal criticism, shambolic team performance and controversy. Finally settled in an enthralling Sevilla side, is this time for the Cameroonian captain to leave a lasting impression on the beautiful game?
Beginning his career at Rennes in the 2006/07 season it only took M’bia a year to be in the face of controversy. At 21-years-old, his club Rennes came against Ligue 1 giants Lyon. During the game, he had battled against Czech star Milan Baros. The dual became heated when the former Liverpool striker remarked that M’bia smelt. The cameras caught Baros wafting his hand by his nose before pinching it. M’bia felt ‘deeply saddened’ by the act and while Baros was given a three match ban, the authorities did not see it as a racist gesture.
M’bia went on to establish himself in the side from Brittany making 105 appearances between 2006 and 2009, scoring 4 goals in his time. Summer of 2009 then brought a new challenge, a £10.4m move to Marseille awaited him. An instant hit, he played a vital role in their title winning campaign. His partnership with Diawara in the heart of defense impressed Ligue 1 viewers watching Didier Deschamps diverse squad.
After 3 years, M’bia went from hero to almost zero in terms of value to the French side. In 2012 he was sold to QPR in return for Joey Barton (Who gave a great impression of English people to the French – maybe not). The Cameroonian was one of the purchases during a shambolic period for QPR as the owner, Tony Fernandes, threw money at overrated stars in the hope of survival.
M’bia failed to impress Hoops fans as he was sent of in just his fourth appearance for lashing out at Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen, now of Barcelona. A player on £50,000 a week was often caught out of position, lazily retreating after losing a 50/50 and playing halfheartedly giving possession away far too many times.
The season drew to a close with QPR relegated after a dismal survival attempt. To add insult to injury for the hoops fans, M’bia then made a mess of things on socially media, tweeting Joey Barton asking ‘Do you want to rechange [swap] seats with me?’ after a reply from Barton telling him the swap wasn’t on the cards. The Cameroon captain then claimed his account was hacked after attacking QPR for not talking to him about an exit.
Exiled on loan to Sevilla, M’bia had two paths to choose. Rot and collect money or play for the fans and show his true talent. Fortunately for the Spanish side, M’bia chose to behave. Brought in to fill the hole left by Kondogbia, he had an instant impact turning provider for Kevin Gameiro’s first La Liga goal against Malaga.
Later in the season, he scored a goal in the derby against Real Betis to put Sevilla 2-0 to the good, the scoreline ended comfortably at 4-0. Proving he was a big game player, M’bia followed up the winning away goal to set up a Europa League final tie against Benfica in Turin.
The final ended 0-0 and went to penalties, where M’bia produced agaon, scoring his penalty to help win the shootout and the trophy. The strong run of form on the European stage earned him a place in UEFA’s 18 man Europa Team of the Year.
His Sevilla move was made permanent at the end of the season and it has produced more strong individual performances. Scoring the most goals at a single club, M’bia has established himself as a useful asset to Unai Emery’s well structured Sevilla side.
Given a less responsible role next to Krychowiak, M’bia moves around in a hunters fashion, looking to obstruct opposition attacks and provide the ball for the attacking talents Sevilla possess. An athletic player, he has helped create history at Sevilla. Scoring in the first Europa League game against Feyenoord, he also helped finish the job against Dnipro.
The holding duo of Krychowiak and M’bia allowed the understated Banega to wave his magic wand. Incisive passive and freedom to roam knowing he had cover was key to winning the contest. Reclaiming the trophy created history, as Sevilla became the first side to win the title four times.
The win also allows the Spanish outfit to compete in the Champions League next season, potentially allowing Emery to strengthen his side to compete with the big three in Spain.
A mastery of man management from Emery and his staff towards M’bia, the man from Cameroon has put past controversy behind him to focus on his football. Sevilla have provided a perfect environment and he has flourished.
An example to others, M’bia portrays the perfect story of a player who has changed from being money minded to a focused, driven professional. The history making Cameroonian may have left a tremendously understated legacy on the beautiful game.
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