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English youngster Mavididi grasping chance to grow at Dijon

Dijon (France) (AFP) – With his path to the Juventus first team blocked by stiff competition, Stephy Mavididi is finally coming into his own at Dijon, in what is effectively his first full season at the top level.

A late arrival on loan from Juventus at the end of the summer transfer window, the 21-year-old Mavididi, part of a diaspora of young English talents, has developed into a key player for a team scrapping to stay in Ligue 1.

While many Dijon fans initially knew little of their August signing, Mavididi has thrust himself into the spotlight with a return of eight goals in 26 matches for the Burgundy club.

Born in Derby to Congolese parents, the forward graduated from the Arsenal academy, yet never made a first-team appearance for the Gunners.

Following loan spells with Charlton (twice) and Preston in the lower tiers, Mavididi moved to Juventus in August 2018 for 1.5 million euros ($1.65 million). He played just once in Serie A last season — a 21-minute cameo against SPAL.

Having gradually forced his way into Massimiliano Allegri’s plans in Turin, a switch of coach and the appointment of Maurizio Sarri prompted Mavididi to look elsewhere for regular game time.

“He essentially played with the ‘B’ team, which plays in Serie C. Whether at Arsenal or Juve, he faced a lot of strong competition,” said Sebastien Larcier, in charge of player recruitment at Dijon.

“We had the opportunity to bring him here thanks to the network of (club advisor) Peguy Luyindula, who knows Arsene Wenger and Thierry Henry, and our coach Stephane Jobard, who has contacts at Juventus.” 

– ‘Real potential’ –

Despite his tender years, Dijon is already Mavididi’s fifth club.

“Stephy quickly understood all the interest he had in coming to a Ligue 1 club, to get playing time and the chance to express himself,” said Jobard.

“I was interested in his speed, his ability to score.

“There’s real potential with him which he must make the most of. He needs to improve in the final phase, but he’s adapted well to the demands of Ligue 1.

“You mustn’t forget he’s a foreigner, is young, and needs some time to adjust.”

Mavididi’s team-mate Nayef Aguerd believes the England youth international has a bright future.

“For a defender, he’s the type of forward who’s difficult to mark because he’s lively, capable of playing deep, and his technique allows him to get rid of his opponent,” said Aguerd.

“He has genuine potential. He’s going to come on a lot,” added the Morocco international.

Up next for Dijon is Saturday’s trip to league leaders Paris Saint-Germain, another chance for Mavididi to test himself against France’s very best.

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