Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
MARSHALL MUNETSI produced a midfield masterclass, which crippled Paris Saint-Germain’s US$534m machine led by Brazilian superstar Neymar and, in just one-and-a half hours, sent his transfer value soaring past the US$30m mark.
The 23-year-old Zimbabwe international, in his first start for French side Stade Reims, announced his arrival on the global football stage with a big bang with a blockbuster man-of-the-match show at the iconic Parc des Prince in Paris on Wednesday night.
Signed for just around US$500 000 from Orlando Pirates two months ago, Munetsi saw his transfer value storm past the US$30m mark, a 600 percent rise, after a vintage individual performance.
“That was a US$30m-player performance,’’ an agent, who felt revealing his identity would be inappropriate because Munetsi is under the management of a different stable, told The Herald yesterday.
“This boy has just changed his story in one game and I can tell you he has thrust himself under a lot of pressure going forward.
“A number of the traditional giants in the game will be analysing his performance on Wednesday and they will be sending people to keep a close look on him in every game he plays from now onwards.
“His imposing frame, which is a reminder of Yaya Toure at his peak, is just what the top coaches want in their teams, his movement with the ball is impressive and he plays without fear, it was very difficult, at times, to believe he was making his first start and playing against PSG.
“That was an amazing display and if Idrissa Gueye (the Senegalese defensive midfielder) cost PSG £30m (about US$37m) in July this year to get him from Everton, and he is 30 years old, I can tell you that — because of the relative youthfulness of Marshall — what we saw on Wednesday was a US$30m player and that’s just a starting value.
“The top coaches and clubs are always on the lookout for the fresh talent that is coming into the game and such box-to-box midfielders, with the ability to defend and also to create for their teams, are in real demand and that performance by Marshall is the kind of stuff that just changes everything.” France Football, the influential weekly magazine that organises the Ballon d’Or, yesterday praised Munetsi’s performance in Stade Reims’ 2-0 win over PSG, describing him as one of the best players in the game.
It ended PSG’s unbeaten 22-match at home in French Ligue 1, stretching over 16 months, and came just a week after the Paris giants had crushed Real Madrid 3-0 in a UEFA Champions League match at the same venue.
“Arriving from South Africa, and more specifically Orlando Pirates, the Zimbabwean had not yet had the opportunity to show himself,” France Football stated.
“Covering every blade of grass, he finished the match with five tackles, the best total of the match, six interceptions and won eleven duels.”
Munetsi also completed 25 of his 30 attempted passes with a successful completion rate of 86%, including providing the assist for the first goal when his cross was headed home by Gambian forward Hassane Kamara in the 29th minute.
“What an amazing performance . . . so happy to have made my first full debut. GOD IS GREAT,’’ Munetsi said on Twitter.
The Zimbabwean performance also saw him being named in the L’Equipe Team of the Week with a top ranking of eight out of a possible 10 points.
PSG were without the rested Gueye, the suspended Marco Verrattiand the injured Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani but they were still able to field a US$534m machine, led by Neymar, who had scored a last-gasp winner in their last match.
Costa Rica international goalkeeper, Keylor Navas, French/Senegalese defender Abdou Diallo, Argentina’s Leandro Paredes, Spain’s Ander Herrera, Julian Bernat, Angel Di Maria, Pablo Sarabia, Thomas Meunier, Marquinhos, Eric maxim Choup-Moting and Neymar all played parts in the match.
But it was Munetsi who overshadowed everyone with a powerful performance which lit the Parc des Princes and, if he can keep this kind of form, it would be difficult for Stade Reims to keep hold of the midfielder.
Ironically, the French club brought the Zimbabwean to France as a player they could develop into a key member of their squad in the future.
“The recruitment of Marshall Munetsi is part of a logic of the future . . . He is a referenced player in Africa who has climbed the ladder, one after the other, and displays good experience at his age with high level matches in the CAF Champions League,’’ Reims’ director general Mathieu Lacour told the club’s website in July.
“Marshall has a great versatility since he can evolve at different positions in the middle of the field. His characteristics, in particular, his athletic density and his volume of play, correspond to a rare profile which was checked by the staff.
“The idea, at first, will be to accompany the player in the discovery of European and French football so that he develops his full potential at the Stade de Reims.”
However, after the player’s show on Wednesday night, against a giant like PSG and such superstars like Neymar, could change all that.