Lens have started the Ligue 1 season like a house on fire and find themselves embroiled in a title battle with Paris Saint-Germain with 19 games played.
They have taken 44 points so far this campaign and sit just three behind a PSG side who have lost two of their last three league fixtures.
We used Twenty3’s Toolbox to profile one of their most crucial players – 23-year-old centre-back Facundo Medina.
To understand Medina’s impact on his side, it is important to first analyse the team he plays in.
The core of Lens’ success has been their defence. No team in the French top flight has conceded fewer than their 13 goals and their rearguard prides itself on being aggressive in the challenge and quick to intercept danger. They have made 1,673 successful defensive actions and 730 interceptions as well as winning 253 aerial duels and 690 defensive duels.
Lens finished seventh in Ligue 1 last season and have not won the title since 1997-98 – although they have finished as runners up four times (1955-56, 1956-57, 1976-77 and 2001-02). If they are to pull off the seemingly impossible and beat PSG, the performances of their most important players – such as Medina – will be integral.
The Argentine defender operates on the left side of Lens’ back three in their favoured 3-4-2-1 formation – the system they have used most often this year – and has shown he is as capable in possession of the ball as he is out of it.
And he is most certainly capable on the ball. Medina has completed 1,246 passes in Ligue 1 this term – a tally only PSG stalwart Marco Verratti (1,362) can better. Not bad company to be in.
The Argentine is also competent off the ball, making 137 successful defensive actions and 70 interceptions as well as winning 19 aerial duels and 63 defensive duels.
Facundo’s journey to France
Medina arrived in France in the summer of 2020. Born in Villa Fiorito – the same neighbourhood of Buenos Aires that produced the legendary Diego Maradona – he spent time as a youth on the books of Argentine giants River Plate before making his first-team breakthrough with Córdoba-based side Talleres.
He made 37 appearances across all competitions. That was enough to spark the interest of Lens, who paid a fee of just €3.5million to bring him to Ligue 1 in time for the start of the 2020-21 season.
That investment has paid off handsomely. Medina has since played 78 games for the club and become a full Argentine international since arriving in France.
However, he has found it difficult to lock down a consistent place in his country’s backline amidst intense competition – they did just win the World Cup, after all.
But if he manages to maintain the level of performance he has exhibited so far in 2022-23, it is surely only a matter of time before he becomes a regular fixture in La Albiceleste’s defence.
Continuing with the club
There are no such doubts about his importance back at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis. This week, Lens announced that the centre-back has put pen to paper on a contract extension until the summer of 2026, putting rumours of a transfer to bed – in the short term, at least.
The club’s director, Arnaud Pouille, revealed the renewal “is symbolic in more ways than one.”
He praised the team that identified the 23-year-old and claimed the player and club fit together perfectly.
“First of all, [Medina’s] arrival was the result of a collective effort,” Pouille said.
“I remember that many of us were watching videos of Facundo on the night we went up on April 30th, 2020. Facundo is one of those players whose identity fits 100% with the club – through his simplicity, his authenticity and his fierce desire to move forward.”
And for now, at least, it appears he will be moving forward wearing the blood and gold of Lens as they dare to do the impossible and prise the Ligue 1 title from PSG’s iron grip.
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