Widely regarded as a young star with a lot of potential, M’Baye Niang will have an important decision to make this summer that will have a major bearing on his fledgling career.
With plenty of suitors likely to raise an eyebrow should the sprightly attacker be available this summer, the ex-Caen prodigy has a decision to make over his future.
The youngster is badly in need of regular first-team football to aid his development and as such next term will be a big campaign for the attacker.
Following in the footsteps of the likes of William Gallas and Yoan Gouffran, Niang is a product of the Caen academy.
Having joined the Stade Michel d’Ornano outfit at the age of 13, Niang shot to the attention of European scouts in 2010 whilst starring for the French club’s reserve side.
He was quickly promoted to the first-team and captivated onlookers with his turn of pace and threat in behind defences. Although not lethal for Caen in front of goal, Niang ended the 2011-12 season with two goals from 14 starts.
It was AC Milan who won the battle for his hand, paying a fee in the region of €3 million to bring him to Serie A.
Although showings fleeting glimpses of his prodigious talent during his first 18 months in Italy, Niang was never really afforded a consistent place in the San Siro starting XI and has yet to manage a Serie A goal for the Rossoneri.
In a bid to get more time on the pitch and continue his development, Milan loaned the young star to Montpellier in January. He has netted three goals in 13 Ligue 1 appearances to date and played his part in steering the club away from the threat of relegation.
Just where Niang will play his football next season remains something of a mystery though – but he will certainly have options.
Montpellier representatives have been vocal recently in admitting that a permanent move for Niang would be their preference, but the modest means of the Stade de la Mosson outfit could make cost an issue.
A move to another Ligue 1 club could well be an excellent option and let the France under-21 star thrive in his homeland once more, while also giving him the time on the pitch that he needs.
Moving to England could well be premature in Niang’s development, despite high-profile suitors, as he would surely face a similar situation to the one at Milan and a lack of regular action.
The Rossoneri are expected to overhaul their squad to some degree in the summer after an underwhelming season and just what Niang’s role in Clarence Seedorf’s contingent is remains to be seen.
With the likes of Mario Balotelli, Giampaolo Pazzini, Keisuke Honda, Robinho, Kaká and Stephan El Shaarawy all at the Italian club, Niang faces as tough a proposition as ever to become a regular with the historic Serie A side.
Niang is clearly gifted and has all the raw attributes to become a star of the future, but at 19 years old he needs to be playing week-in, week-out. As such, despite his considerable talents, a move back to France for a season of regular top-flight football could well be the best option.