Ludovic Obraniak’s move to Werder Bremen from Girondins Bordeaux seemed to come completely out of the blue. There had been no discussion about the signing on news portals until several days before it was finalised. Obraniak’s move was met with disappointment by Bordeaux fans, and joy from fans of Werder. But who is Ludo (as he is known) and what can Werder and the Bundesliga expect of him?
Ludo started off in the youth system of his home-town club, FC Metz – a team known for producing excellent players such as Rigobert Song, Robert Pirès and Louis Saha. He became a first team regular at Metz in the 2004 season and became one of the key members of the side. His performances attracted the attention of scouts from larger French clubs, so when Metz were relegated from Ligue 1 in 2006, Lille swooped to keep him in the French top flight.
Ludo would go on to spend the next five years with Lille. His time at the club was rather up and down. There were highs, especially during the 2008-9 season where he scored a career best nine league goals, and the winning goal in the 2011 French cup final, but also distinct lows. Towards the end of his time for the club Ludo became a super-sub, a wild-card, thrown on when Lille needed to save games.
All this meant Ludo was delighted when Bordeaux decided to sign him in January 2012. His lack of a first team place at Lille meant it was an easy decision to move to the club from the South-West of France. At Bordeaux he found a coach in Francis Gillot who had faith in his ability and Ludo went on to repay this faith – becoming a key cog in a Bordeaux side which qualified for Europe in 2012. Throughout his time at Bordeaux he was an almost guaranteed starter, so his departure to Werder will be a big loss for Girondins.
In addition to making nearly 300 appearances in Ligue 1, Ludo has also played for the Polish national team 32 times, scoring six goals. The 29-year-old qualifies to play for Poland due to a Polish grandfather. His national team career has been surrounded by controversy. Many Poles see Ludo as a mercenary who only decided to play for Poland when he realised he would never represent the full French national side. This feeling of distrust is deepened by Ludo’s inability to speak Polish and his rather weak attempts to pick up the language. On the other side there are many who support Ludo’s presence in the national team due to his good performances on the pitch.
In September 2012 things got worse for Ludo in Poland as there was a public war of words between Polish captain Kuba Błaszczykowski and Obraniak over the latter’s sending off during a World cup qualifier in Montenegro. The relationship between Ludo and the national team was strained and eventually he decided to resign from playing for Poland in May 2013, citing mistreatment. Recently new Polish head coach Adam Nawałka has met with Ludo – today Werder’s new acquisition featured in Poland’s squad which is going to face Scotland on March 5th.
So what can Werder fans expect from Obraniak? Firstly he can play in a number of attacking positions but he favours playing either as a deep-lying midfielder who can spread passes, or as a number ten just behind a lone striker. He is blessed with good awareness and can pick passes well. But his real weapon is a superb left foot which allows him to hit long shots with unerring accuracy and power. He also takes excellent corners and free-kicks, as evidenced by Saturday’s wonderful equalising free-kick against Borussia Mönchengladbach. All these skills should be very useful in his new club’s attempts to stave off relegation.
Ludo as a person is an enigma. The Pole is far more intelligent that the average footballer, but he’s rather shy and enjoys listening to jazz music and visiting art galleries. While playing for Poland this shyness has caused problems, with press and players feeling he is not enough of a team player. These characteristics can at times spill onto the pitch, as sometimes Ludo looks like he’s not fully engaged. Somewhat contrastingly he’s got a bit of a sharp temper, which has led to two red cards while on international duty.
All of these things make Ludo’s move to Werder an intriguing prospect. He definitely has the skills to help the club from Bremen out of their current plight and his signing represents a very shrewd bit of business. It’ll be interesting to see how the Green and Whites new midfielder is going to link up with Aaron Hunt, the other creative midfielder in Werder’s squad, over the next few games. The stage is set for Ludovic Obaniak, let’s see if he delivers.