Folarin Balogun is returning to Ligue 1 with AS Monaco after the 22-year-old's successful loan spell with Stade de Reims saw him score 22 domestic goals last season. The Arsenal loanee's form was so impressive that the USMNT moved for him ahead of England and Nigeria and a return to France felt somewhat inevitable given his success in Champagne territory.
Monaco are the Championnat outfit bringing Balogun back to French soccer on a permanent basis for around $43 million on a long-term contract that was announced on Wednesday. As far as matching club with player, it is an almost perfect fit with Les Monegasques, an upgrade on last year's Reims side despite Will Still's important role in Balogun's development.
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Stade Louis II is an excellent destination in terms of the Brooklyn-born striker's projected advancement with immediate regular minutes owing to Breel Embolo's unfortunate injury. Kevin Volland has also left Monaco to return to the Bundesliga with popular German side Union Berlin while Wissam Ben Yedder faces rape allegations.
No UEFA competition is not ideal for Balogun but there is a clear pathway to rapidly becoming Hutter's main attacking figure. If we look at Embolo's 14 goals and four assists across all competitions last year and then factor in Ben Yedder's further 23 goals and seven assists, Balogun will clearly need to provide more regularly.
With his newfound USMNT place to consider and on-off links with the likes of Inter and Milan over the summer, Monaco rapidly became lead candidates to land Balogun. The Gunners have been digging in all summer long for a substantial fee which they get while the eight-time French champions get a player who fits their Red Bull-influenced project.
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Balogun will get immediate minutes with a club that will be desperate to get back into Europe in a league he is familiar with. A potential move elsewhere, should he continue to develop as hoped, should not be ruled out based on the nature of how reliant ASM are on talent development and smart as well as rapid business.
With that in mind, the big question now is what sort of attacker Hutter wants Balogun to be for Monaco given that it likely hinges on Ben Yedder's availability. With Reims, we saw the American as pretty much exclusively a predatory striker and finisher with just two assists all season and little to show in the way of involvement in build-up play which we have already established he will need to do more of.
Balogun might need to add that to his game for both club and country moving forward while keeping his finishing skills sharp so that will be something USMNT fans can keep an eye on in Ligue 1 this term. How receptive he is to Hutter after one year under the younger Still will also be interesting given his explosion in form which mirrored his boss' rapid rise to recognition.
The former Borussia Monchengladbach, Eintracht Frankfurt and Red Bull Salzburg tactician has far more experience and also comes with a different soccer culture which should enrich Balogun at Stade Louis II. It might not immediately appear to be the move many expected him to make this summer, but it could and should prove beneficial pretty much immediately for all parties.