At 29-years-old former Arsenal wonderkid is finally showing his potential

Aliadier And Alfonso Alves

Jeremie Aliadiere was talked about as Arsenal's 'next big thing' - But only now is he appearing to fulfil his potential.

When Jeremie Aliadiere made his Arsenal debut over a decade ago the man he replaced when he came off the substitute's bench was Thierry Henry.

Just like Henry had filled the Nicolas Anelka shaped void at the club when he arrived; there were high hopes Aliadiere would one day be able to carry the mantel from Henry if and when he would depart.

That hope came with good reason; Claude Dusseau, head of the Clarefontaine Academy, reportedly said that the three best strikers to emerge from there were Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka and... Jeremie Aliadiere.

Aliadiere first signed for the Gunners in 1999, just 16-years-old - and made his debut three years later as a sub in the 4-1 win over Fulham.

Since that moment Aliadiere's career has been one of fleeting promise and mainly frustration, and it appeared he would never fulfil the potential he had. And to some degree he never will have the success which Henry or Anelka did, but at 29 - the Frenchman is currently enjoying the most successful season of his career.

He did manage to score nine goals for the Gunners, but never became first team regular, with only one of those strikes coming in the Premier League, the rest in cup competition.

He was loaned to both Celtic, West Ham and Wolves, three spells which saw his career prospects decline as he bagged just two goals across his travels.

He eventually signed for Middlesbrough for £2 million in 2007, but his time on Teeside was no more successful, scoring 12 goals in three seasons as the club were relegated to the Championship, and was then released. 

An cruciate knee injury would keep him out of football for the entire 2010/11 season, before he returned to train with Arsenal and clinched a move to French side Lorient.

In his second season at the club, he is proving he really is a late-bloomer. Last year he bagged just two goals, but this season has been something else for him.

Aliadiere has struck 11 times in Ligue One, including a goal in Lorient's 3-1 defeat to Lyon last night. Add in his one cup goal, make it 12 - and he has eclipsed his previous best ever strike record - a lowly five goals for Middlesbrough in 2007-08. And it's only February.

The striker was even linked with Newcastle last month - like most Ligue One players - but it did not amount to anything. Even if it had, Aliadiere would have been best advised to stay put where he is finally enjoying his football in his homeland.

His present form is absolutely terrific; in the last six games Aliadiere has scored four goals and provided three assists, helping Lorient into a top half position in ninth. 

He has never had a French international cap, featuring only in the under-21s, and at 29 it may be that his opportunity has passed. But if he continues his excellent form in Ligue One he will become difficult to ignore.

After a difficult time in England with a lot of pressure, injuries, and often sporadic opportunities, it's unlikely anybody would begrudge Aliadiere the success he is enjoying and will hopefully continue to go onto savour.

Check out this goal from Aliadiere which won an award from L'Equipe readers...

Are you glad to see Aliadiere is finally making a success out of his career?

image: © p_a_h

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