Receiving the ball in the box, as three defenders collapse on him, Allan Saint-Maximin pushes the ball to the touchline. With blistering speed, he reaches the ball before any of the defenders, chipping it to an open Ryan Fraser to give Newcastle the lead against Everton in a do or die relegation battle. This moment, along with many others, has cemented Saint-Maximin’s place as the most fun player to watch in the Prem.
Newcastle’s season has been a mixed bag for a multitude of reasons, but the one bright spot has been Saint-Maximin, as his electrifying play and fascinating banter are unique. A flashy player both on and off the pitch, Saint-Maximin has been one of the Prem’s best characters since his arrival from Nice.
A somewhat highly regarded prospect in France, Saint-Maximin showed glimpses of interesting potential that could be molded into a player who could contribute at a higher level. His outputs were never among the best in the league, but his raw skills were enough to attract suitors. In the summer of 2019, Newcastle won the race for Saint-Maximin in a bit of a surprise given their situation.
Fans could have expected Saint-Maximin to fail given the team’s track record with French players from Ligue 1. Memories of Florian Thauvin showing up to a game in a tux only to fail after his move from Marseille rightfully scared Newcastle from signing wingers from the league. Saint-Maximin went ahead and turned those dire expectations on their head and has become the team’s leader as he continues to develop into an interesting prospect.
Saint-Maximin has captured the eyes of the league as a whole, as he is a unique player who breaks the mold of what to expect from players. His terrifying raw skills have been honed in a way that is rarely seen and is effectively used to better his team. It’s not often that one sees a player that is able to combine the on field play with off field swagger like he does.
For some players, relying on skill moves and their physical gifts can be a crutch, but Saint-Maximin uses them in a way that elevates his team. It is such a difficult balance, but he has been able to properly find a way to play efficiently while still being flashy.
While no Neymar or Ronaldinho in terms of how high his ceiling could be when it comes to mixing those two skills, Saint-Maximin has already proven that he could be an elite player in the Prem. Adama Traoré is a player who had similar traits to Saint-Maximin, but Traoré’s biggest flaw has been his lack of growth in terms of his playstyle. Unlike Traoré who is far too reliant on his physicality, Saint-Maximin is more well rounded, as his mesmerizing dribbling skills aid his blistering speed.
Every match seems like an And1 mixtape for him, as he cuts through defenders like butter, creating a high level of chances for his teammates. Similar to how basketball icon Allen Iverson was able to manipulate games with his handling skills, Saint-Maximin displays a similar ability to a lesser extent. Again, it’s not necessarily that he is at the same level as Iverson, one of the greats of his sport, but it’s more that mastering ball handling can elevate a whole team rather than just the individual.
It’s not just the eye test that Saint-Maximin passes, although the eye test is important as a strict adherence to statistics can limit one from just enjoying a player. Saint-Maximin’s stats when compared to the rest of the league are impressive.
When looking at the amount of players dribbled past in the Prem, Saint-Maximin is so far ahead of second place that it’s embarrassing to compare other players to him. As of the Everton game, he has dribbled past 105 players, over 40 more than second place. The man is a ghost for defenders, as one second he’s in front and the next he’s clear on goal.
This isn’t just for YouTube highlights that are mixed with some remix of a hit song, but it opens the field up for his teammates. His dribbling, or progressive carries, make his expected assist numbers and shot creating actions sky rocket to the top of the league. Again when compared to Traoré, one sees the difference between a reliance on physicality and the balance of two necessary aspects.
Saint-Maximin’s mesmerizing dribbling and pace make him a truly unique player that the Prem hasn’t had in a while. This has allowed him to separate himself from other Newcastle flops and Premier League stars.
Another aspect of Saint-Maximin’s character that makes him unique is the swagger that he carries himself with. From his interactions with fans to the Gucci headband he wore in game, he is truly a player that the Prem hasn’t really had.
Active on social media, Saint-Maximin is often engaging in banter with fans and having fun with reporters in a way that most Prem players don’t. Most other Prem players use their social media to promote their endorsement, praise their teams or update fans on their personal lives. Much like NBA star Joel Embiid, he uses his social media to have fun and create a better connection with fans.
Most fans will not forget when Saint-Maximin first displayed his Gucci headband that he wore in the 2019 season which he was later forced to cover up. Not many players would be willing to have fun like this and choose to don a headband that is of the same brand as their club’s provider. Saint-Maximin is not that type of player, he is one who plays by his own rules.
This is what makes him such a breath of fresh air, as he seems to want to carve out his own path rather than adhere to the path laid out by so many players before him. All this, the swagger to his play, makes him a player that fans can have a connection to rather than a robotic star. Saint-Maximin doesn’t feel stuck to the old ways or the robotic nature of the modern sport, but is feeling free to make his mark.
It would be one thing if he was this flashy without being able to back it up, but Saint-Maximin’s great play gives him the swagger he displays. This, along with his play, makes him one of the bigger characters in the Prem and endears him to fans across the league.
Saint-Maximin has become one of the most exciting players to watch over the past few seasons, as the fun that he plays with is infectious. His playstyle and swagger that he has off the field is something unique for athletes in the Prem. As Newcastle looks to stay alive in the Prem, Saint-Maximin will likely play a massive role in deciding their future in the top flight.
Featured Image: BT Sports