ALL EYES ON HOUSSEM AOUAR
CLOTHES: SUMMER STORE / WORDS: TOM EVEREST
Although he is the latest in a long line of French footballers of Algerian descent, Houssem Aouar, just like Zidane and Benzema, is a generational talent. A player with the balance, vision, ingenuity and artistry to be the next to add another important stroke to the masterpiece of modern French football. While the mainstream footballing world has suddenly caught wind of Houssem – with new transfer moves and murmurs being mooted every five minutes – his name has echoed around the streets of Lyon for years.
His outlook, his ethos, even the way he speaks – his favourite saying being ‘Pelo,’ a typical Lyonnais term which means ‘my bro’ – is influenced by the city: the place he calls home and the district where he was raised by a single mother who was a nurse in Algeria before she arrived in France. He admits that his mother gives him ‘the strength and motivation’ to achieve and believe in more. So, despite the fact that he may experience a life beyond Lyon at some point in his career, he remains unfazed.
On set, in a studio at the heart of his hometown, he is relaxed. Houssem talks with the precise blend of concentration, confidence and nonchalance that you would expect. The same kind of telepathic understanding that sees him control time and space on the pitch. It’s this aesthetic playing style and attacking nous that has made him such a mouthwatering prospect to top European clubs. It also makes him the type of guy who makes you feel comfortable and relaxed from minute one.
He has the breadth and intelligence to talk about any topic introduced to him. For instance, he chats in-depth about the last film he watched, The Equalizer, he opens up about style in the Lyon dressing room and admits that Memphis Depay, another man who looks set to experience life beyond the French city, is the best dressed footballer on the planet. Although brands like ‘adidas, Prada and Dior’ are the ones to max out his wardrobe, he has no ambitions beyond football right now. “I just try to stay as focussed as much as I can.” It’s his sole purpose. Which means whatever the future holds, he only has one tunnelled-vision mission.
“My motivation is to win as many trophies as possible,” he explains. Having grown up watching the likes of Lionel Messi, the player he confesses to be the toughest opponent he’s ever faced, and Zinedine Zidane, his childhood hero and the player ‘who made him love football,’ Houssem has the fire to light his own path.
“My dream is to win a lot of trophies and to have a beautiful career,” he empowers. And you believe him. He allows the swivel of his head and hips to do the talking for him and often likes to leave things left unsaid. So, it’s fitting that the player who can control and dictate the tempo of the game on the pitch concedes that ‘reading people’s minds’ would be his chosen superpower. It, unintentionally, epitomises everything about him. He’s quiet, he’s understated and no matter the noise around him, will always remain pure, focussed and consistent. So, let’s see where it takes him.