Moussa Sow has long been considered a prodigious talent yet it has taken him until this season to really come to the fore.
Having joined Lille in the summer, Sow has gone onto establish himself as French Ligue 1’s most potent striker with a goal haul of 13 from open play.
Sow’s performances in a side blessed by an exciting mix of young talent and experienced heads helped LOSC head into the winter break top of the pile.
The Senegal international has also helped Lille blossom on the European stage, netting during the recent 3-0 victory over KAA Gent to secure a place in the UEFA Europa League knock-out round.
“We played the game the way we needed to get a win,” said Sow after the game. “It’s done and we’re qualified for the next round.
“We know how to adapt well on a muddy pitch. We have gained much momentum now and I hope this will continue.
“Personally, I’m confident right now and I feel good about this team. I just want to bring in my qualities to help the group move forward.
“I’m also discovering the Europa League for the first time, and my goal on Thursday was my first in this competition. I’m happy and I hope that we will go as far as possible.”
Lille now face a tough two-legged tie with Dutch Eredivisie leaders PSV Eindhoven, although the side from northern France can be confident of progression with Sow in attack.
Born in Mantes-la-Jolie, the striker plied his trade for several teams before signing with Stade Rennais in 2003, where he came through the club’s much-vaunted youth system and had a spell at the Clairefontaine academy.
Sow’s performances helped the Rennes academy achieve considerable success and earned him a number of France under-19 caps over a three-year period, during which time he also made his first-team debut at club level.
However, the striker’s time with the club was disjointed and he found a starting berth anything but secured, typified by a season sent out on loan to Sedan in 2007/08.
Sow became an increasingly important part of les Rouges et Noirs’ squad last year, but he found himself out of the club over the summer as part of their attempts to overhaul the team.
While Rennes may be level on points with Lille, they must be rueing their decision to part company with Sow after his explosive displays this season.
France, too, are counting the cost of their failure to persuade Sow to pledge their future to them, having chosen to play senior international football with Senegal.
The striker has become a key part of Amara Traore’s new-look Senegal side and has vowed to succeed with the Lions of Teranga.
“Senegalese football needed to spend some time sorting itself out, and that’s what happened,” said Sow. “Sometimes you need to take a step backwards to gain momentum.
“It’s about time we paid the Senegalese people back for all their support. We’re still going through a transitional period, with lots of new players – some with dual nationality, like me – being brought in.
“We’ve got a younger team now, but there’s a perfect balance with the more established names.
“The veteran players have been through some tough times, but they learnt some valuable lessons along the way, and they’re making sure that we don’t fall into the same traps as before.”
Sow’s two appearances so far have resulted in two victories and nine goals for the team as a whole ahead of February’s friendly international with Guinea.
It seem the striker made a wise move to link up with the west Africans, who – much like Lille – are enjoying their time with Sow leading the line.