The future of French goalkeeping - Meet Arsenal fan & NxGn ace Alban Lafont

It speaks volumes for the talent of Toulouse goalkeeper Alban Lafont that by the end of the season, all things being equal, he will have played over 100 first-team matches.

Goalkeeper is notoriously a position in which players develop late, often continuing their careers well into their late 30s, yet the France Under-20 international only turned 19 in January. The experience he has gathered for his age is quite incredible.

Moreover, he has already developed a habit of reserving his best performances for the big occasion, really making his breakthrough when he shut out Paris Saint-Germain in a 2-0 home win last season courtesy of a couple of truly astounding stops.

Little wonder, then, that clubs of the pedigree of Arsenal and Napoli have been attracted to his talents.

Laftont NxGn Samsung 04042018

Born in Ougadougou in Burkina Faso, he moved to France aged nine and enjoyed a quite meteoric rise.

As his father put it to Midi Libre after he debuted: “Five years ago, he was still playing as a striker and scoring goals. A month ago, he was just a youth player. Now he’s a pro. Leave him alone.”

Having initially started as an outfield player, it comes as little surprise that he is capable with the ball at his feet – something that now comes as standard with modern goalkeepers at the highest level.

His reflexes and maturity, however, are above the normal for a player still developing in his position. With a success rate of 95% coming for crosses, he also shows a strong command of his box for a player who appears reserved and softly spoken away from the field, with his judgement at clutch moments particularly impressive.

Certainly, he has been given plenty of opportunities to practise his art, given that Toulouse have spent much of the last two seasons frantically battling against relegation from France’s top flight.

“You learn faster and it’s harder,” he told RMC earlier this season. “But I come out of it stronger.”

Alban Lafont Toulouse Nice Ligue 1 28/11/2015

In light of the the difficulties TFC have faced this season, it is testimony to the quality of their goalkeeper that they have managed to keep 10 clean sheets as they fight to ensure their survival.

But the prospect of the youngster leaving already looms large on the horizon, and there is one club above all others that he is particularly taken with.

“Since I was little, I’ve really like Arsenal,” he admitted. “Since the days of Robin van Persie, in fact. I really liked his style and thought he was elevating the whole team’s level.

"I wasn’t a goalkeeper at the time, but even if you’re a keeper, you can love attackers. And it is through him that Arsenal made an impression on me.”

Gianluigi Donnarumma of AC Milan might dominate the headlines when it comes to goalkeepers of the future, but Lafont is not far behind.