Ahead of his return to Marseille, the club that handed him his professional breakthrough, Mathieu Flamini has received further praise from Arsene Wenger.
Having radiated the same energy against Sp*rs and Sunderland that he displayed week in, week out during his first stint in North London the boss feels his decision to re-sign the French midfielder is already paying dividends.
“[He is] absolutely crucial to the balance of the team,” the boss told Arsenal Player.
“He has done very well. He had not played since May and when you see how well he came in, it shows you how well, how focused and how dedicated he was in his preparation.
“He’s got what is needed in every team. I wouldn’t say we lacked that as much as people say but he is of course important for the balance of the team that we have players with his qualities.”
Flamini first came to prominence at the Stade Velodrome at 19, even starting the 2003/04 UEFA Cup final defeat to Valencia, in a side also featuring Didier Drogba and Fabien Barthez.
Amazingly, despite the back catalogue of world stars who’ve strutted their stuff in Ligue 1, only Marseille (1992/93 European Cup) and Paris Saint-Germain (1995/96 Cup Winners’ Cup) have ever secured UEFA honours.
Reflecting on the situation, Arsene Wenger hinted that the influx of money at both PSG and Monaco could well see that change sooner rather than later.
“In the French league you have PSG and Monaco who attract top-level world-class players. That means all the best French players go to the other clubs and that makes everybody stronger.
Looking specifically at Marseille’s summer action ahead of a tough Champions League opener, the boss noted:
“They bought [Dimitri] Payet who is a creative player. Then have [Andre-Pierre] Gignac – the centre forward for the French national team.
“The playmaker of the French team [Mathieu] Valbuena is there so they have good offensive potential.
“Florian Thauvin has just arrived there. He has been sold from Lille to Marseille. I think he played over the weekend but he’s not completely physically ready yet.”
For his part, Flamini mentioned last week that he wouldn’t mind ending his career at Marseille even though he went out of his way to quit the club in favour of the Gunners (the first time).
“You should never say never. I did my apprenticeship there. Of course it’s the club of my heart.
“I’ve always stayed close to it, because I’m in contact with Jose Anigo, someone who knows me very well.
“There has never been anything concrete and I have some good years ahead me.”
The boy has unfinished business across Europe it seems, no doubt he’s already planning a return to AC Milan just for symmetry’s sake.