The amazing rise of Anthony Modeste

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  • Rising star: Modeste

    In the beginning of the summer, it looked like Anthony Modeste was going to move to China. Beijing Gouan made the 28-year-old French striker an offer that was difficult to refuse, while his buyout clause at Cologne stood at just €7.5million.

    Modeste reportedly informed the German club about his wishes, while a number of Premier League clubs, most notably West Ham United, monitored the situation closely.

    Cologne’s sporting director Jorg Schmadke was confident that the Frenchman would eventually stay at the club, and managed to persuade him to sign a new vastly improved contract until 2021, while abolishing the release clause for good. The striker realised that in spite of the money on offer, it was too early to finish his European career.

    The result has been truly stunning. By the end of October, Modeste was the most prolific striker in all of the five top leagues with 11 goals to his name in just 10 matches. He scored more than his famous compatriots Antoine Griezmann and Karim Benzema put together in La Liga.

    Modeste’s self confidence knows no limits. Over a week ago, he missed a penalty in the first half against Hamburg, but proceeded to complete a second-half hat-trick and lead his team to a 3-0 win. That completed an incredible month, in which the Frenchman scored all seven Cologne goals in the league.

    In fact, he is directly responsible for 75 percent of the team’s goals this season. No player across Europe has been more influential.

    Markus Gisdol, who took over at Hamburg a month ago, shouldn’t have been surprised by Modeste’s celebrations. After all, Gisdol was the man who first brought Anthony to the Bundesliga in the summer of 2013, when in charge at Hoffenheim. Modeste enjoyed a phenomenal start to that season as well, scoring six goals by September and becoming the best French debutant in the league’s history, outgunning the likes of Jean-Pierre Papin and Franck Ribery.

    Such exploits took German fans by surprise, because nobody really knew Modeste three years ago. His career was rather disappointing and inconsistent until then, and Blackburn supporters would rather forget his short spell at the club.

    Modeste was signed by the Rovers in January 2012 on loan from Bordeaux. He failed to score, only started thrice, and conceded a needless red card during the 3-0 defeat at West Brom. In short, he was one of the worst signings in the club’s history, and Blackburn eventually went down.

    Bordeaux never really wanted him back, but Modeste recovered by scoring 15 goals on loan at Bastia during the 2012/13 season, partly thanks to meeting his idol, Didier Drogba, who gave him some valuable advice. After such a positive spell, he had to choose between St Etienne and Hoffenheim that summer.

    “I wanted to try something new”, he explained. He never had any regrets, and his partnership with Roberto Firmino and Kevin Volland during the first season in Germany had been absolutely superb. The team scored 72 goals in 34 matches, even though 70 goals conceded meant that Hoffenheim only ended up in mid-table.

    Modeste’s second season at the club was less successful, and Cologne were somewhat surprised with the smoothness of negotiations to sign him for just €4.5million last summer. The Billy Goats needed a replacement for Nigerian striker Anthony Ujah, and the Frenchman was Peter Stoger’s first choice.

    The Austrian, who took over in 2013, led Cologne to promotion and turned them into a force to be reckoned with, prefers counter-attacking football. Modeste, who always works tirelessly for the team and is able to find free spaces, suits this strategy.

    The striker promised to score 15 goals in his first season and stated that Cologne should try to finish in the top half of the table. Sure enough, he scored exactly 15 times, and the Billy Goats were ranked ninth. This term, he wanted to make an improvement on both fronts, and the results have been phenomenal so far.

    Thanks to Modeste’s stunning scoring record, Stoger’s team are sixth, just six points behind Bayern Munich, and the most optimistic fans are starting to dream of a possible Champions League qualification, even though that is a very long shot at present.

    “Anthony is a machine”, Cologne defender Dominique Heintz said. However, he is also the heart and soul of the dressing room. True to his name, Anthony is a very modest person – in fact, he even drives a Smart when in town. The Frenchman plays a very important role in the dressing room with his jokes and innovative goal celebrations.

    Now that he has outscored everyone in Europe, Modeste expected to receive a call from France coach Didier Deschamps for his first call-up. His dream was to play at Euro 2016 but that wasn’t realistic last term. This time, however, Anthony could be forgiven for feeling that his exploits deserve recognition, and was left disappointed.

    “He is having a great season, but the competition is tough”, Deschamps explained, and promised to take another look at the striker come spring. It remains to be seen whether he can maintain his form till then, and chances are that Modeste will never play for the national team, but Cologne fans won’t complain. They want their star fit and fresh. They would be a completely different team without him.