21st August 2017. By Edward Stratmann.
The future of Max Gradel has been a topic of much contention this summer, with conflicting reports regarding where he'll be plying his trade this season whirring relentlessly.
Having not started a single Premier League game last season for Bournemouth, the injury troubled Ivory Coast international unsurprisingly attracted the interest of the likes of Toulouse and Sunderland. Eddie Howe, the Cherries manager, however, insisted the explosive winger was still very much a part of his plans for the 2017/2018 campaign, especially after his strong work in preseason. "His attitude has been so good that we would be very reluctant to lose him. He has had a good pre-season so far, he has trained very well and is an important part of our squad," Howe explained.
"This preseason, he has shown he is back to his best. He has been really sharp and really impressive. He always has a smile on his face and he is very passionate about the game, about Bournemouth, and I have a lot of time for him."
The rumours about his departure persisted, though, as newly relegated Sunderland rose up and became the front runner for his signature. But despite the Black Cats having an agreement with the speedster, Gradel eventually opted to return to Ligue 1 and join Toulouse on an initial loan deal, with his desire for regular first team football a key motivating factor ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
"I understand the French league and coming back here was not a difficult decision," Gradel revealed to BBC Sport. "There was no problems or whatsoever with Bournemouth, but the chance to play regular football was too good an opportunity to turn down.
"Even though it's tough when you are not getting regular football, but I always enjoyed support from everyone connected to the club.
"So my decision [to go out on loan] is based purely on football and ambition. You have to make a strong case for yourself by playing regularly wherever you are. It's what's best for me and my career because I want to help my country qualify for Russia and play in the World Cup."
The 29-year-old Gradel will inject some vital quality and experience into Pascal Dupraz's young side that boasts some hugely promising talents in the form of Zinedine Machach, Alban Lafont, Alexis Blin, Kelvin Amian, Yann Bodiger and Corentin Jean. Moreover, his presence will unquestionably be vital in assisting in the development of many of his aforementioned colleagues, for they'd be only too happy to learn from a player with such a wealth of knowledge about the beautiful game.
Full of trickery, acceleration and agility, on his day Gradel is an absolute nightmare for defenders to deal with. In addition, his blindside runs into depth and ingenuitive space finding infield movements, plus his precision from set pieces, only serves to add another layer of unpredictability to his game.
Returning to the familiar confines of the French league, where he starred previously for Saint-Etienne before heading to Bournemouth, should ease his integration into life with Le Tefece. Upon taking into account his family's apparent preference to move back to France and the move certainly makes sense for Gradel.
He'll hope to pick up his tremendous form from his final crusade with Les Verts two years ago, a season that saw him finish equal fifth in the goalscoring charts with Claudio Beauvue. The fact only Alexandre Lacazette, Andre-Pierre Gignac, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani finished ahead of him aptly demonstrated what a fine term he had.
For Gradel, who's enjoyed a fascinating career to date, having also spent time with Leicester City and Leeds United, Toulouse appears a great place for him to fulfill his current ambitions. The only thing that might get in the way of the man capped 45 times at international level being a success could be his horrible injury record, which has seen him suffer two debilitating anterior cruciate ligament tears in the last five years.
With his future now sorted after a summer of uncertainty, Toulouse should provide a fine platform for Gradel to not only achieve his aim of earning his spot in next year's World Cup if the Elephants can quality, but also for him to get back to his domineering best.
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Max Gradel Joins Toulouse On Season Long Loan Deal
21st August 2017. By Edward Stratmann.