This is taken from the GFFN 100, our leading 150-page FREE publication ranking the best 100 players in France, see the full list and read every profile right here.
When Pedro Chirivella arrived at Nantes from Liverpool’s under-23s in 2020, it wasn’t that he was a player lacking in talent, despite not having made a senior appearance on Merseyside. It was, rather, that he represented an epoch defined by the parsimony of Waldemir Kita in Nantes’ transfer strategy.
Les Canaris have been something of a yo-yo club under his stewardship, and that summer saw the club spend no money on transfers, save exercising the option on Moses Simon’s loan deal. Along with Chirivella, Jean-Kévin Augustin and Sébastien Corchia also arrived that summer, players whose stocks had plummeted. Chirivella was only 23, and had played well enough in loan spells in the Netherlands and the Spanish second division, but his ability to adapt to the rigours of French football was still a matter of some debate.
His first season at the Beaujoire saw the team struggle to avoid relegation, cycling through three head coaches over the course of the season, including the ill-fated tenure of Raymond Domenech. However, even as his managers cycled through tactical and philosophical approaches, his passing acumen became integral to the team’s success on the counter.
Consolidating last year under Antoine Kombouaré, the team achieved a top-half finish and won the Coupe de France. While balancing Europe, where the team will face Juventus in the new year, hasn’t always been easy given what’s still a relatively thin squad, Chirivella has continued to impress, even earning a contract extension in April as he nears 100 appearances for the club.
Despite playing as a less defensively-minded player than he had in his previous stops, with Andrei Girotto’s energy allowing him to have fewer responsibilities in terms of shielding the back four, he still remains the team’s fulcrum. With the pace of Simon and Marcus Coco on the flanks, his ability to switch play quickly means Nantes have remained dangerous — only Johan Gastien averages more long balls played among Ligue 1 midfielders this season.
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Relegation may remain a threat for the team, with four clubs going down this year, but with Chirivella pulling the strings, Les Canaris remain a force with which to be reckoned in any given match. The Spanish midfielder has played no small part in that, and his lofty place in this year’s 100 is well-deserved.
Eric Devin | GFFN