In the days leading up to France¹s 2010 World Cup squad announcement last May, the French press played a guessing game called "Who's the new Chimbonda?" The game involved plucking names out of thin air predicting who would be eccentric French coach
In 2006, that player was
"I saw that he already had the mentality of a top player," said Domenech in an exclusive interview with SI.com at the Leaders in Football conference this week. "I looked at him on the pitch and I thought I was seeing a 26-year-old, not a teenager. His choices, his positioning and his distribution belonged to someone much older, more experienced."
M'Vila did not make the final cut of 23 for the World Cup -- Domench said the youngster was number 24 on his list -- but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. After new coach
In fact, M'Vila kept his place and was the only player to start Blanc's first three matches in charge (and also started against Romania Saturday in Les Bleus' 2-0 win). After Norway came a home defeat to Belarus, which was soon forgotten when M'Vila was outstanding in an impressive 2-0 win in Bosnia-Herzegovina. "After the Bosnia game, the coach said 'Well done' to me and that meant a lot," he told
If this sounds mature for a 20-year-old, it's because M'Vila has had to grow up fast. He is married with two children and recently told RMC radio: "Fatherhood has made me more responsible and given my life stability." Growing up in a downtrodden district of Amiens, in northern France, M¹Vila felt sure he would fail to hold down a regular job, and somehow end up in jail. Football was his salvation: he spent two years with Amiens but did not sign an academy contract as the club refused to sign his brother Yohan. At 16, he moved to Rennes where he played under academy director
Rampillon has been rewarded by winning the French league's award for the best academy for the last five years, but the shadow of scandal is never too far away: rival clubs claim that Rennes, owned by
The current generation, led by M'Vila but also containing first-team players
The next challenge for Rennes will be to keep M'Vila, who has already spoken of his desire to play for a big club abroad. "He has it all and can go the top, top, top," said Domenech.