The Main Man at Mainz: Jean-Philippe Gbamin

Looking at the various ‘Team of the Hinrunde’ articles doing the rounds as we enter the Winterpause, you see the usual suspects from teams in the top three or four in the Bundesliga on repeat. There are however one or two publications that have picked up on the oft-overlooked talent over at Mainz who is enjoying a very impressive season so far- midfielder Jean-Philippe Gbamin.

The defensive all-rounder is now in his second season with the Null-Fünfer and following a highly impressive debut campaign in the Bundesliga, is showing it was not a flash in the pan with a series of equally eye-catching displays in the 2017-18 Hinrunde.

When the Ivorian signed from French second division side RC Lens for €5 million, many people questioned whether new sporting director Rouven Schröder knew what he was doing, but those doubters have been well and truly silenced by the development and impact of the youngster and the fact that he has recently had his contract extended by another year taking him to 2022 is testament to his importance to the club.

He began his footballing career in the youth ranks of US Saint-Quentin Blessy and Aire-sur-la-Lys before joining Lens. He represented France from U-18 to U-21 level, but has since committed himself to his country of birth- the Ivory Coast.

The defensive midfielder, who can also provide cover in any of the back four positions, has become a key player for Sandro Schwarz and is outperforming players from more illustrious Bundesliga clubs on a regular basis.

His value to Mainz was best highlighted in their recent home defeat to Borussia Dortmund. With him in the side the hosts more than matched the DFB Pokal holders and enjoyed control of the midfield area, but with Gbamin forced off injured at half-time, the visitors were finally able to wrest control and ended up winning 2-0.

According to the Kicker ratings, only Lars Bender, Kingsley Coman and Leon Bailey rate above him for midfielders and there are plenty of stats to back up his lofty position. He may not have scored this season, but that hasn’t been from want of trying and he has been a regular source of shots from distance. Indeed a shot from 50 meters against Freiburg hit the bar and would have even eclipsed Serge Gnabry’s goal against RB Leipzig. The 22-year-old has averaged 42 passes per game with an 84% success rate, and completes an average of 18 challenges per game.

Mainz have a canny habit of signing talented young players and developing them for a few seasons before being forced to cash-in with a profit when the big boys come waving their cheque books (Andre Schürrle and Yunus Malli are just two examples).

Looking at the trajectory of Jean-Philippe Gbamin’s development and the consistent level of his performances. it’s easy to imagine that that there will be potential suitors arriving at the Opel Arena before too long. That’s just why the club have recently opted to extend his contact by a year to 2022.

“Jean-Philippe Gbamin has made great progress in the last year-and-a-half. He brings his ever-increasing potential and physical presence to the pitch as a flexible defensive player and he’s an absolute key player for the team” Rouven Schröder said following the signing of the new contract.

“I’m absolutely delighted that we’ve extended his contract and I see it as a confirmation of my work for the club. I’ll continue to give my all for Mainz 05 in the future” was what the player had to say.

Gbamin has excelled during the Hinrunde and deserves any accolades coming his way. Another impressive Rückrunde is sure to raise his stock furthermore and help Mainz both on the pitch and potentially on their balance sheet.

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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