In the shadow of a giant
Ever since the great Zinedine Zidane retired from football, France has made something of a habit of labelling all elegant and technically gifted playmakers “the new Zizou”. Louisa Necib is one such player, but in her case the parallels with the iconic No10 are so striking that comparisons are almost unavoidable.
Necib has been likened to Zidane for several years now. Indeed, back in 2006, FIFA.com published a piece entitled “Necib following in famous footsteps” that detailed the pair’s numerous shared attributes. But while several high-profile players in recent times have struggled under the weight of expectation – Camel Meriem and Yohann Gourcuff to name just two – Necib appears to be handling the hype rather well.
The comparisons have become so frequent that Necib almost seems to glaze over when Zidane’s name is mentioned. “Being compared to Zidane is really nice, but I don’t think it can harm me because I’ve been hearing it since I was very young,” said the 24-year-old. “It always makes me proud, but as I always say, I don’t think you can compare anyone to him. He’s unique.”
A ray of sunshine
For those looking for a more up-to-date assessment of Necib’s worth, France coach Bruno Bini is the man to ask. Indeed, one mention of the Marseille-born midfielder’s name and Bini’s eyes light up with excitement. “There aren't many players like Louisa,” he said. “She can do things you wouldn’t even find in an instruction manual for the perfect footballer. Quite simply, she’s an artist.”
“OK, you could say that sometimes she keeps the ball a bit too much,” he added. “However, there’s so much sunshine when she does touch the ball. I’m always cold, and it warms me up and makes the whole team glow. I think she can get away with it more than others.”
Bini is clearly full of admiration for the young Olympique Lyonnais starlet, but he also reserves special praise for the efforts of France’s more unsung heroes in shutting out a dogged Nigerian side. “She [Necib] can also get away with it because she’s surrounded by players who work tirelessly,” Bini concluded. “Camille Abily usually dictates the play, and I’ve rarely seen a player give as much as she did. But that’s all part of this team’s mindset.”