IMScouting’s player to watch: Michel Bastos

IMScouting’s latest player to watch is Lille’s Michel Bastos (who possesses the “strongest left foot in France.”)

This 25-year-old has made great strides in the last 18 months and his mercurial left-foot is a major reason why Lille could struggle to hold on to this Brazilian.

Whilst football fans love to read about the latest youngsters making a breakthrough, some players take time to develop. Michel Bastos is 25 and only now is he really announcing himself to the football world.

Lille’s left sided attacking midfielder is in the midst of his best season ever, in just 16 games he has scored six goals whereas last season he claimed eight in 35 appearances.

Bastos has undoubtedly benefited from playing higher up the pitch, but his quality shines through since his left foot must be one of the best in Europe and from dead balls and in play, this Brazilian is always a threat to the opposition goalkeeper.

According to a number of scouts in France this left-sided player has the hardest shot in Ligue 1. Bordeaux’s Wendel is also known for the quality of his left foot, but Bastos strikes the ball more powerfully.

This 25-year-old has made major improvements to his game in the past 18 months; he is fast, technical, an accurate crosser and has a very powerful shot. His recent form suggests he could play for the biggest clubs in Europe, thankfully for Lille, the Brazilian does not seem in a hurry to leave.

So far this season he has scored three free-kicks and during his time at Lille he has even scored direct from a corner. It is no exaggeration to say that his left foot reminds observers of another Brazilian – legendary full-back Roberto Carlos. Bastos’ left foot is capable of hitting rockets from dead balls but is also very effective when crossing from the right hand side, where he can swing the ball in.

In 16 games this campaign he has claimed five assists, two of them coming in the recent 3-0 win over AS Saint Etienne. He has also scored in Lille’s two most recent games, against Marseille and Lorient and is currently one of the top goal scorers in Ligue 1. Against the two best teams in France, Marseille and Lyon, Bastos has claimed an assist and a goal – clear proof that he can live with the very best.

Stability seems to have done wonders for Bastos. He joined Lille in 2006/7 and is now in his third season at the club, previously this Brazilian, just 25-years-old, had played for seven clubs. Only at Excelsior Rotterdam (2002/2003) and Figueirense (2005) did he really establish himself as a first-team regular.

His second spell in Brazilian football was the most productive, he scored 10 goals in 34 appearances for Figueirense and a year later was on his way to France. In his first season back in Europe, Bastos scored three goals in 25 appearances and since then he has continued to improve.

Much of the credit for Bastos’ improvement should go down to former and current Lille managers Claude Puel and Rudy Garcia, currently he is a key player on the left side in a 4-5-1 formation. It will come as no surprise that Marseille have already been linked with a move for the player. His contract runs out in 2009/2010 and Lille are hoping to sign him on a longer contract.

Bastos himself seems to realize that stability has been crucial in his recent sparkling form, he recently said: “I want to continue at Lille, there have been discussions on a contract extension. It is progressing. I think this will be done quickly. I do not listen to the transfer gossip.” His faith in Lille could be well founded, if they can turn their numerous draws into wins they could find themselves in Europe again next season.

Ultimately, Bastos is proof that some players develop quicker than others; this Brazilian left footer is currently one of the in-form players in European football. More than anything, he has a left-foot that is the talk of France and if he continues in this current form, Lille, currently eighth in Ligue 1, will be helpless to hold on to their new samba star.

Video evidence of Bastos can be seen here.