18 months ago, not many football fans at all would have heard the name Han-Noah Massengo. The teenager, who broke into the Monaco first team in Thierry Henry’s time at the club, became the youngest ever French player to feature in the UEFA Champions League just 12 months ago. He earned starts against the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid, next to Youri Tielemens and played pretty well, suddenly causing more media attention towards him. Highlight reels were created, and praise was beginning to be sang, before a couple of league performances, one in particular against Amiens that had French football fans intrigued.
What happened? Well, not much at all really, due to Henry’s sacking, and Monaco’s poor league season, he just wasn’t featuring as much as the experienced players, even after Tielemens’s departure and decided to leave the former Ligue 1 Champions. This was to gain first-team football after Leonardo Jardim didn’t play him at all.
You may be asking, how on earth did Bristol City manage to attract Massengo’s services? In short, City, and Championship CEO of the year, Mark Ashton alongside their fantastic recruitment team have an outstanding scouting base and list of contacts across a lot of European countries, including Spain, Portugal, France, and Sweden. These links and the depth of knowledge have brought in a range of international players to the Championship. They’ve got most of this recruitment spot on, with most if not all players featuring in the starting line up, week in, week out.
The recruited players I’m referencing feature the likes of Han-Noah Massengo, Famara Diedhou, and Lois Diony all from Ligue 1, although the least said about the latter the better. Niclas Eliasson, who leads the Championship in assists arrived from IFK Norrkoping and Adam Nagy from Bologna. All these deals highlight the Robins’dreams of once again becoming a top division club, a feat not achieved since relegation in 1980. These deals are similar to the likes of a Premier League club’s business and make City look like the ambitious club they aspire to be.
Having landed in BS3 shortly after turning 18, the box to box midfielder wasn’t originally set to feature much for the first team after his multi-million-pound move. But injuries to fellow midfielders Adam Nagy and Korey Smith left City short for options in the middle of the park. The Frenchman watched the opening day defeat to Leeds United from the stands, but it wasn’t long after that he was awarded his first start. Han-Noah went straight in the side, just two games later, in a Carabao Cup 1st round match at Loftus Road. The hosts romped out winners in that game, but Massengo’s passing ability left an impression with Robins fans aplenty. However, as he was just warming up to life in England’s second division, Massengo returned to the bench against the same opponents QPR, just four days later, in the league. City went 1-0 up in that game, through an Adam Nagy goal, but the Hungarian international went down with an injury and was substituted at the halftime break. On to replace him was Massengo, little did he know that this would lead to an extended run in the first team.
10 consecutive starts were to follow, in which the French under 19 international showed off his physical ability to win the ball and his quickness to perfectly time almost any challenge possible. As well as being able to produce an outstanding long ball, and take the ball downfield with him, as he isn’t afraid to take anyone on. He’s also a likable character, having met the guy myself. He was welcoming and introduced me to his family after the October game against Reading, there were a huge amount of fans queueing up to give him artwork and get an opportunity to meet a real fan favourite.
As for numbers, he’s yet to score a goal, as midfield partner and advanced playmaker Josh Brownhill is allowed to roam further forward than Massengo on an average matchday, meaning no goals have been scored. However, as of mid-November, he had 423 passes, 15 tackles, 593 touches and 85 recoveries on the season, showing how involved he really is.
The Frenchman’s performances have impressed many, with the midfielder attracting scouts from Premier League giants Arsenal and Chelsea. Possibly meaning promotion to the first division, for the 4th placed team in the Championship, could prove crucial for their chances of keeping the young-starlet.
I for one am I excited to see the Frenchman with massive hair, who drinks the vodka and cider (see below) develop into a cracking young player, similar to Kante, Fabinho and Tielemens out of fellow Ligue 1 teams, the latter two having played for Monaco. Will Han-Noah Massengo follow in their footsteps? We’ll have to find out.