What does the future hold for Algeria’s former golden boy?

Harry Burford

Back in the summer of 2014, Algeria were on the verge of appearing at successive World Cup finals for only the second time in the nation’s proud footballing history.

After taking Joachim Löw’s notoriously efficient German outfit all the way to extra-time courtesy of a man-of-the-match winning display from goalkeeper – Rais Mbolhi, no one could accuse the determined Algerians of failing to give their all when it really mattered most.

It was a team full of emerging talent with great potential to go on and take the European footballing scene by storm. Whilst some Algerians at the 2014 World Cup ultimately shone more than others, Vahid Halilhodzic’s outfit would include the likes of Islam Slimani, Nabil Bentaleb and Riyad Mahrez, who each sought to ply their trade within the English top-flight with varying degrees of success.

Perhaps the most standout name of the entire bunch however, would seemingly have to arrive in the form of ex-Grenoble and Valencia winger – Sofiane Feghouli. The up and coming Algerian playmaker was reportedly courted by several elite European powerhouses, including Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United at the time, after scoring against the Belgians at the World Cup finals, and subsequently helping his side receive widespread praise for their numerous strong performances.

Yet despite the brewing sense of sensation eagerly surrounding his name on the back of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Feghouli’s once impressive spell among the Spanish game somehow came to a rather unceremonious end after parting ways with Valencia in the summer of 2016.

West Ham United eventually came a-callin’ as a result of the 27-year-old’s newfound availability, and after securing the once highly coveted winger on a seemingly beneficial free transfer roughly this time last year, the Hammers looked to have completed one of the conceivable signings of the entire summer. How wrong that turned out to be…

Sofiane Feghouli failed to hit the ground running so dramatically among Slaven Bilic’s struggling starting XI this season, many West Ham fans were forced to question whether or not their side had really landed the same player that looked oh so effective throughout the 2014 World Cup. Feghouli even temporarily lost his place among the Algerian national setup midway through the recent domestic campaign. A far cry from what could have been for the former national treasure.

But just why did the French-born Algerian ultimately portray himself in such a negative light? It certainly wasn’t anything to do with his work ethic. Although some West Ham fans have seen fit to criticise Feghouli for his obvious defensive incapability out on the pitch, this is one player who has clearly given his best in terms of sheer effort and determination.

“I did not play as much as I wanted but it does not change my goals for next season. My coach knows that he can count on my professionalism and determination, as always.”

Sofiane Feghouli

Yet sometimes his best just hasn’t been up to scratch. Although Feghouli has admittedly struggled with his fair share of injuries this season, it was disappointing to see the newly sourced free agent muster as little as three solitary Premier League goals in 2016/17. Simply put, West Ham fans were expecting more than just the odd glimpse of potential from the former World Cup star – a lot more.

As Sofiane Feghouli certainly wasn’t the only newfound summer signing to fail to impress down at the London Stadium this term, perhaps there was a greater issue afflicting the West Ham faithful in 2016/17. The likes of Simone Zaza, Havard Nordtveit, Alvaro Arbeloa and Jonathan Calleri were also resoundingly poor for the Hammers at times, but had they been introduced a little more shrewdly within a far more accommodating set-up under Slaven Bilic this season, maybe things could have turned out differently. They can’t have all suddenly developed into god-awful players largely overnight now, surely?

Coupled with all the external influences negatively impacting the Hammers in their newfangled stadium away from the well-worn terraces of the beloved Boleyn Ground, it’s easy to see why West Ham’s debut campaign amid the London Stadium didn’t exactly go according to plan.

In line with such an approach, now is no time to seemingly write off Sofiane Feghouli as a totally useless footballer with no meaningful future left in the East-End of London. Now that the trials and tribulations of West Ham’s horror campaign can finally be cast aside and swept beneath the already well-stocked claret & blue rug, the 27-year-old winger has every reason to kick on next term with these newfound lessons locked firmly under his belt. He is still learning remember, sometimes these things take a little time.

Whether or not West Ham United can ultimately afford this ongoing luxury however, of continuously bedding-in misfiring players such as Feghouli for another whole domestic campaign, remains an entirely different discussion altogether…

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