After an uninspired start to the season, the striker peaked at the right time last year and hoped that France coach Didier Deschamps would notice. But despite being a regular with Les Bleus for the past two years, Ben Yedder was not included in the squad for the tournament in Qatar.
At 32, Ben Yedder's chance to feature on the world's biggest stage was likely gone for good.
The diminutive forward with excellent finishing skills had repeatedly spoken about his "dream" to play at the World Cup, so few imagined that Ben Yedder could bounce back so quickly from the pain of being left out.
One of those few was Philippe Clément.
Soon after Deschamps' list was announced, the Monaco coach said Ben Yedder was obviously upset, but insisted that his player was not “a kid,” and would soon put the disappointment aside.
He was right.
Since the league resumed at the end of December following France's runner-up finish at the World Cup, the former Toulouse and Sevilla forward has scored eight goals, embodying Monaco's resurgence as the club bids for a Champions League berth.
Since the turn of the year, Monaco has amassed 17 points — the most of any side in 2023 — and Ben Yedder has largely contributed to that superb run of form.
Last weekend, he moved up to 14 goals for the season — 19 in all competitions — following his brace in a 3-1 win over leader Paris Saint-Germain. The goals helped Monaco extend its unbeaten league run to eight matches.
Ahead of Sunday's trip to Brest, Monaco moved into the top three for the first time this season, just two points behind second-place Marseille, with PSG having a five-point lead at the top of the table. PSG hosts Lille on Sunday and Marseille travels to Toulouse.
Ben Yedder was rewarded this week for his five goals in January with the trophy for best league player of the month. If he keeps that pace up, Ben Yedder will likely be brought back in by Deschamps for upcoming European Championship's qualifiers.
After taking over from previous coach Niko Kovac, Clément has transformed Monaco into a true contender. The former Club Brugge tactician first brought stability to the Monaco backline, then instilled his team with his attacking spirit.
“All my players have a winning mentality and don’t just play to stop the opposition," Clément said. "They believe in themselves and their teammates. It is true that we do everything to score while trying to be solid defensively too. You have to find the right balance, and that’s what I’ve seen in recent weeks.”
With 51 goals in 23 league games — including 22 since after the World Cup break — Monaco boasts the second-best attack this season. In addition, the team has scored at least once in each of its last 33 league games.
Ben Yedder is not the only one to pile up goals for Monaco. Forward Breel Embolo has 12 league goals under his belt despite having to share opportunities with Ben Yedder.
“It’s only early February, and Breel has already surpassed his career high in single-season goals,” Clément said. “People often talk to me about combining the two, but I wonder if they would have scored so much if they were always together on the pitch.”
The two strikers are enjoying sustained support from another very effective duo of creative players in Caio Henrique and Aleksandr Golovin, who have delivered seven and six assists, respectively.
“Only Paris Saint-Germain are doing better than us and have as many weapons," Clément said. “This is where we see the strength of our collective, because beyond the scorers, everyone brings their contributions to the table.”
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