The imminent signing of Max Gradel has raised a few questions amongst supporters and fans. The question we want answered is how good is he now?
Back in the 2007/2008 season he was a raw recruit on loan from Leicester. He was enthusiastic, fast and quickly became a fan favourite. During his spell at Dean Court he made 34 appearances and scored an impressive 9 goals. But back, then AFC Bournemouth weren’t quite in the same financial position as they are now and eventaully the 5ft 9in winger had to move on, returning to Leicester. Unfortunately, his next spell in England was as Leeds United, first on loan, before signing permanatly in 2010. His good form continued scoring 22 goals in 63 appearances. It was from Leeds that he joined St. Etienne in 2011 and has been there ever since.
After joining St. Etienne his goal-scoring exploits took a bit of a nose dive. In 2011/12 he made 30 appearances scoring 6 goals, in 2012/13 he made 26 appearances scoring 3 goals and in 2013/14 it was 18 and 5. It was last season as he heads towards his prime that he started to reveal more of his true talent.
The 2014/15 season saw him score 17 goals in 31 Ligue 1 games. This was enough to give him the fourth best goals per game ratio in Ligue 1 only beaten by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Andre-Pierre Gignac and Alexandre Lacazette. In addition to his goalscoring exploits he provided 4 assists and 46 key passes, better than anyone else at Saint-Etienne. Hardly a poor record we would say.
THE BIG QUESTION: WHERE WILL HE PLAY?
Gradel is recognised as a right winger, though he is flexible to play on either wing as an attacking midfielder. The right wing is one position that is currently occupied by arguably one of AFC Bournemouth’s best players, if not best player from last season in Mr Matt Ritchie. Is Gradel good enough to displace Ritchie? We would have to say that Ritchie would be extremely unlucky if he doesn’t start. Could Eddie Howe accommodate both?
The alternative is the left wing which means Gradel will be in competition with Pugh and may be Smith and King. Is he good enough to start ahead of these players? Again, we don’t see him starting at first, we think he will need to grow into the team and then he will get his chance to prove how good he is. So until then does Eddie see him as prime backup material? He’s good, but not quite good enough YET. But, there is no doubt that he is well worth the £7m (£5m?) that St. Etienne are asking.