It took Arjen Robben around 10 years before perfecting that signature move. It was only at Bayern Munich, after spells at Groningen, PSV Eindhoven, Chelsea and Real Madrid, before the flying Dutchman started consistently and relentlessly do what he would end up being renowned for; cutting inside onto his brilliant left foot and bending firecracker shots into the back of the net.
Billal Brahimi, in contrast, may have introduced us to his own party piece just midway through his second season in senior football.
During the dying stages of Nice’s impressive 3-1 win at Ligue 1 title-challengers Marseille, Brahimi picked up the ball in the left-hand channel and wasted little time in whipping a pinpoint finish into the far corner.
Just one week later, he would repeat the trick. A sublime first-time strike swept home with ruthless efficiency. The best was still to come; Brahimi’s scintillating second during Nice’s 3-0 thumping of Auxerre last time out as aesthetically-pleasing as any of Robben’s Bayern best.
Billal Brahimi one of Ligue 1’s breakthrough talents at Nice
‘(Brahimi is) Arjen Robben with hair’, SoFoot writes of the 22-year-old winger; the one-time Middlesbrough starlet combining Robben’s wonderous finishing with wild locks the Dutch legend could only dream of.
“I trust him because he deserves it. And he listens,” smiles Nice’s interim coach Didier Digard; himself a former Middlesbrough player.
“(Brahimi) generally hasn’t been rewarded for his efforts with goals. But that’s starting to change. We just told him what we saw in him.”
Nice paid around £6 million to sign Brahimi from SM Caen last summer. And it’s easy to see now why the former Riverside prospect has so many admirers across the continent. According to FootMercato, clubs in Germany, Italy and France all scouted Brahimi not so long ago. As did a Rangers side who, until Fashion Sakala’s remarkable uptick under Mick Beale, struggled to find an adequate replacement for Daniel Candieas on the right-hand side.
‘I hope to play in the Premier League’
Brahimi’s emergence at Nice has been such, however, that Rangers already appear to have missed the boat. A player who recently moved for £6 million, and who’s value is increasingly exponentially, is likely to be beyond the means of even Scotland’s most deep-pocketed clubs.
Rangers’ loss, meanwhile, is shaping up to be Nice’s gain. Though Brahimi, while fully focused on maintaining his current rate of progress, is not ruling out a return to British soil sooner rather than later.
“If I work hard, I hope to be able to play in the Premier League one day,” Brahimi tells FootMercato. “I have three models; Riyad Mahrez, Leroy Sane and Gareth Bale.”
There was something distinctly Mahrez-esque about the way Brahimi cut inside and sent yet another shot sailing into the top corner against Ajaccio. In fact, if you squinted a little, you’d have been forgiven for assuming you were watching Arjen Robben circa 2011 doing what he does best.