Raw talent aside, it's a gamble to court Martial


LONDON • The last time Anthony Martial replaced Radamel Falcao, things worked out pretty well.

In November 2013, the Colombian was forced by injury to miss Monaco's game with Rennes.

Claudio Ranieri, then the French club's manager, saw it as an opportunity to blood the talented young striker who was on the fringes of his squad.

Martial made his first start a few days before his 18th birthday. He scored with his first shot on target.


  • Manchester United have signed four of the six most expensive teenagers in football history.


    £36 million (S$78 million)

    Monaco to United, 2015


    £31.8 million

    Sao Paulo to PSG, 2012


    £29 million

    River Plate to Barcelona, 2001


    £28 million

    Southampton to United, 2014

    The left back struggled for form and fitness during his debut season, but has returned focused this term.


    £25.6 million

    Everton to United, 2004

    The third highest scorer in United's history and a central figure in the club's last five English Premier League triumphs.


    £25 million

    Porto to United, 2007

    The midfielder promised so much but became a peripheral figure in his final few years at the club.


There is a dash of irony, of course, in Martial finding himself, in a sense, replacing Falcao once again following his £36 million (S$78 million) move to United yesterday, although the circumstances are very different.

The pressure, in one sense, should be lower: Falcao is not exactly a difficult act to follow at United given that he scored just four league goals last term.

In another, though, it is considerably greater: Martial, in the space of less than two years, has gone from raw new recruit to the most expensive teenager in football's history.

Whether his abilities warrant that status is open to question.

The bare numbers are not especially eye-catching: 11 French Ligue 1 goals in 52 appearances , a conversion rate of 20 per cent and just five assists.

More encouraging is the obvious recognition of his talent.

France manager Didier Deschamps last week selected Martial for his squad to play in friendlies against Portugal and Serbia.

The 19-year-old's movement, close control and pace are probably his most distinctive qualities.

Some have compared him to Thierry Henry, another Monaco graduate and, like Martial, born in the province of Ile-de-France.

Those who know him better, including his brother, Johan, suggest that Karim Benzema is a better parallel, although there is a touch of his childhood hero, Sonny Anderson, in his first-time finishing.

One current weakness in his game is his hold-up play, and he might just lack the strength to play with his back to goal effectively in English football.

Though capable of playing as a wide forward, United will likely play him in a central striker position, with Wayne Rooney in an attacking midfield role. They could also use Martial as a rotation player if they prefer to keep Rooney as their lone front man.

Either way, £36 million remains a gamble. Louis van Gaal will have to hope that Martial proves to be worth the bet.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2015, with the headline 'Raw talent aside, it's a gamble to court Martial'. Print Edition | Subscribe