Anthony Modeste: from Premier League reject to Bundesliga star
Wednesday 12th April. By Ryan Baldi
To Premier League fans with little interest in German or French football, Anthony Modeste is a name that is unlikely to conjure too many vivid memories. If the Cannes-born striker left any lasting impressions at all after his short-lived loan spell with Blackburn Rovers during the 2011-12 season, they will be predominantly negative.
Modeste played just nine games for the Ewood Park club, failing to find the net at all during his six months on loan from Bordeaux. The campaign ended in relegation for Rovers while the Frenchman returned to his homeland, sealing another loan switch, this time to Bastia.
So those (un)fortunate enough to have witnessed his unproductive stay in Lancashire would surely be surprised to learn that, now with Bundesliga side Köln, Modeste has developed into one of the hottest marksmen in Europe.
With an incredible return of 24 goals from 30 games in all completions – 22 of those coming in Germany’s top flight – the 28-year-old is keeping pace with world renowned hot shots Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at the top end of the Bundesliga’s scoring chart this season.
To trace the genesis of Modeste’s blossoming into one of the most effective and efficient poachers on the continent, you need to go all the way back to that 2012 move to Bastia.
During his single season at the Stade Armand Cesari, the 6’ 2” Nice academy graduate began to find his groove. The 17 goals he bagged that term was the highest single-season return of his career, barring a 20-goal haul while on loan at Anger in 2009-10, who were in the French second tier at that point.
Always a powerful presence in the opposition’s penalty area, Modeste was slowly learning how to best put his physical tools to use. The way he is now regularly seen nonchalantly holding off the challenge off a defender as his spins toward goal is a technique that was honed with Bastia.
By the end of his sole campaign I Turchini, Modeste was 24 years old and finally showing signs of developing into a top-level centre-forward. So much so, in fact, that upwardly mobile Bundesliga outfit Hoffenheim snapped him up.
Hoffenheim’s progressive approach to the transfer market of identifying young players with high potential, and therefore high resale value, made Modeste the ideal man to join their project.
The Frenchman adapted to German football quickly, netting 14 times in his maiden campaign at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena. He produced a less prolific return of nine the following season, with a flying start to the campaign undermined by a five-month goal drought, but his penalty area savvy and imposing physicality made him a target for Köln.
The fee that Die Geißböcke shelled out for Modeste in August of 2015 was not officially disclosed, but was reported to be just €5 million. Considering that he has since scored 42 goals in 66 games, the deal has to be considered one of the greatest bargains in the Bundesliga’s recent history.
Indeed, in his very first competitive game for his new club, against SV Meppen in the DFB-Pokal, Modeste immediate set about making the transfer fee that took him from Hoffenheim to the RheinEnergieStadion look almost derisory by bagging a hat-trick.
The ex-Blackburn loanee showed himself to be one of the German top-flight’s more dangerous strikers during his first campaign with Köln, producing a more than healthy return of 18 goals from 36 games in all competitions, including 15 in the league which placed him fifth in the scoring charts and made him the highest French single-season scorer in Bundesliga history.
But another lengthy dry patch during the second half of the season prevented him from racking up an even more impressive tally, and showed that the former France under-21 international had not yet attained the level of consistency that is expected of the very best goal-scorers.
However, 2016-17 has certainly seen Modeste find his consistency. So much so that he has only once gone more than two games without hitting the net this term. Thanks to the confidence that comes with scoring on a regular basis, it now feels as though any time the ball reaches the former Bordeaux poacher inside the penalty area, the net will be bulging soon after.
The 22 goals he has scored so far this season have come from a total of just 78 attempts, including blocked efforts, giving him an average of just 3.55 shots for every Bundesliga goal scored. By way of comparison, last season Modeste was operating at an average of one goal for every 7.27 shots, while Bayern Munich’s Lewandowski requires 4.46 shots per goal, and Borussia Dortmund’s Aubameyang’s average is 3.88.
This goes to show that, although the two superstar strikers are currently edging ahead of Modeste in the scoring chart, the Köln man remains the most efficient marksman in Germany right now.
With this in mind, it is no surprise that the 28-year-old was the subject of a whopping €40 million bid from Chinese Super League side Tianjin Quanjian in January. Likewise, it is unsurprising that Köln elected to shun the Chinese riches in favour of hanging on to their star man.
But a big-money move could well be in Modeste’s future. The development he has shown over the last few years is evidence to the fact that he is ready to test himself at an elite-level club. The only thing that may stand in his way is that, at 28, many top sides might consider him a little too much of a late bloomer to warrant lodging the kind of bid that would be needed to tempt Köln into selling.
If a Premier League side came knocking, however, Modeste, in hope of emulating his hero Didier Drogba, would be ready to show that the ill-fated loan spell with Blackburn is long in the past; get the ball to him inside the box and he’ll score goal – in any league.
Maybe a return to England, or even to one of the powerhouses of Ligue 1, is what is required for France boss Didier Deschamps to finally take notice of Modeste and award him his first senior international cap.