Credit must go to Frédéric Antonetti and his purchase of Romain Alessandrini. Those of whom that were apprehensive as to whether or not the winger would be able to adjust to the French top-flight after signing from Clermont Foot Auvergne 63 in the summer for £2.2 million, the 23-year-old has quashed those critics with a zest and style that has wholly benefited Stade Rennais’ campaign to qualify for Europe once again.
Among Stade Rennais’ departing players were Jirès Kembo-Ekoko (Al-Ain), Razak Boukari and Tongo Doumbia (both Wolverhampton Wanderers) and Alexander Tettey (Norwich City). They all played a part, some far more influential than others, in what would ultimately prove fruitless towards the end, dropping crucial points at Girondins de Bordeaux and Montpellier Hérault destroyed the chances of pipping the aforementioned les Girondins and Claude Puel’s Olympique de Lyonnais to a UEFA Europa League spot. Certainly is this the case in Kembo-Ekoko who managed the find the net 13 times and assist 4 times over the course of 42 appearances in all competitions, and Tongo Doumbia sitting in the midfield bank alongside Yann M’Vila over a combined total of 84 outings in all competitions as well.
And for a team which favours a width of play and use of its attackers, Antonetti’s side was relatively short on natural wingers throughout the 2011/12 campaign, alternating forwards who were essentially strikers into wide men as well as attacking midfielders and sometimes central midfielders into these crucial areas.
So whilst Alessandrini’s acquirement could have been seen with much elucidation, questioning whether or not he has the capabilities to exceed other than beating his markers for speed and athleticism, Rennais’ requirements for a young and menacing winger did not need to be sought after in an expensive purchase with funds the club doesn’t necessarily have. Mevlüt Erdinç’s transfer from Paris Saint-Germain in a relatively lacklustre stint cost les Rogues-et-Noirs in the region of £7 million. Coupled with Julien Féret’s and Youssouf Hadji’s arrivals from A.S. Nancy-Lorraine (£3.52 million and £1.5 million respectively) apace with Jonathan Pitroipa’s earlier transfer from Hamburger SV (£3 million) – it also happened to be the club’s biggest transfer expenditure in three years.
The impact of the former F.C. Gueugnon midfielder has been instantaneous: having started in Antonetti’s favoured 4-2-3-1 10 times this season, Alessandrini made his debút in the club’s 3-2 victory over newly-promoted S.C. Bastia, scoring in the 22nd minute. Alternations between left and right wing saw him score his second league goal of the season against Lille Métropole, this time coming off the bench. Further on and more alternations later victory was secured yet again with Alessandrini featuring against struggling A.S. Nancy-Lorraine. The following game it would be his most memorable goal yet – facing the league’s runners-up from last year, Julien Féret’s attempted pass, despite attempting to be cleared by an erroneous Mamadou Sakho, fell swiftly into the path of Alessandrini, who hit the ball first time across Salvatore Sirigu for the first goal of the game. A fantastic strike that set the away team on their way to winning the game 2-1 at Parc des Princes since May 2009.
As well as an assist in a 2-1 victory at home to title holders Montpellier Hérault and three goals in three consecutive Coupe de la Ligue appearances to help send Stade Rennais into the semi-finals of the tournament, means that the diminutive five-feet-six left winger has now found the net 7 times in 14 games in all competitions, followed up with a 140 minutes-per-goal tally. Encouraging from a left-sided player with the considerable advantage of flat-out beating his opposing full backs in a foot race, as it turns out, much like for other Ligue 1 clubs without the resources of others, the answers can often be found just beneath you.