Wolfsburg - The name may not be one that easily rolls off the tongue of even the most die-hard VfL Wolfsburg supporter, but the summer signing is nevertheless well on the way to becoming a firm fan favourite.
“He’s a young player with great potential,” said Wolfsburg sporting director Klaus Allofs at Guilavogui’s official unveiling in August after he was brought in on a two-year loan deal from Spanish champions Club Atletico de Madrid. “He’s already got a great deal of international experience and will contribute to our side’s development.”
Guilavogui wasted little time in proving just that and has featured in nine of the Wolves’ 11 Bundesliga fixtures so far this season, starting eight. Indeed, the 24-year-old dovetailed so perfectly with fellow defensive midfielder
against Hamburger SV on Matchday 11 that he had coach VfL Dieter Hecking swooning over his “two world-class defensive midfielders” after the final whistle. Such heady compliments are nothing new for a player who made his Ligue 1 debut as an 18-year-old in 2009 for AS Saint-Etienne, where his performances swiftly drew comparisons with another hard-nosed, leggy Frenchman: 1998 FIFA World Cup winner Patrick Vieira. “It’s always nice to be compared to him,” Guilavogui said. “But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I need to work hard in order to get to his level.”
Full France international
His forceful displays as a teenager soon propelled him to reular first-team action at St. Etienne, and in 2013/14 he helped the side return to European competition for the first time since the beginning of the 1980s. Guilavogui’s rise did not go unnoticed by France national team coach Didier Deschamps, who called him up to the
, explaining: “He’s a fine player who can go a long way on the international stage.” After his move to Atletico Madrid in summer 2013 did not pan out as planned, Guilavogui returned to St. Etienne on loan but missed out on a place in the French 2014 World Cup squad through injury. Nevertheless, he is now back in the national set-up and eager to add to his five international caps, as well as to continue making his mark at Wolfsburg.
“VfL made a huge effort to sign me and it makes a big difference when a club is that persistent,” Guilavogui said. “I want to keep developing in Wolfsburg and here I have the opportunity to show what I can do on the European stage too.” His calm off-field demeanour masks a biting presence when on it though: the Ollioules native has thrown himself into 191 tackles in the league this term - almost one every four minutes - and has emerged winning 60 per cent of them. He is also unafraid to bare his teeth when necessary, commiting more fouls (17) than any of his team-mates apart from Gustavo. Add into the equation his 82 per cent pass completion rate and it is not hard to imagine Wolfsburg exercising their option to make Guilavogui’s stay permanent when his current deal expires. Fans and colleagues alike will have had plenty of opportunity to learn how to pronounce his name by then.