Under unlikely circumstances, the Frenchman has become hot property of late via his exploits for relegation-threatened Cesena.
There’s an international buzz undoubtedly rising regarding the Cesena man, who had played just 10 minutes of top flight football prior to the current campaign.
Moreover, Defrel has managed to get himself noticed while plying his trade for a Cesena side sitting seven points adrift of safety in Serie A.
The Sea Horses have hit the back of the net only 23 times through 24 games, with Defrel’s five goals and three assists giving him the greatest output in the squad.
Cesena have struggled mightily in attack this term first under Pierpaolo Bisoli and now Domenico Di Carlo. The Dino Manuzzi outfit find themselves third-worst in Serie A in both average ball possession and pass accuracy, 42.6% and 74.4%, respectively, according to WhoScored.
Defrel has in turn done most of his good work feeding off of scraps. Cesena’s 146 chances created is by far the lowest in the league, a full 165 behind leaders Juventus.
For a striker, a lack of service is a frustrating phenomenon. But it’s worked to Defrel’s credit, as his work rate and individual character have enabled him to succeed.
Perhaps the greatest example of the Frenchman’s commitment came in Cesena’s shock 2-2 draw with Juventus earlier this month.
As could be expected, the Sea Horses saw even less of the ball than usual, claiming just 38% of the possession. Yet Defrel was key to making sure they were effective when the tide did turn.
His passing was crisp, as Defrel misplaced four of 29 balls played, an impressive ratio for a forward against a team like Juventus who press relentlessly.
Two chances came off of his boots, the first of which was buried by Milan Djuric after Defrel embarked on a surging run on the counter and supplied a perfectly weighted ball.
Only twice was the Frenchman dispossessed on the day. It was an efficient display that was crucial for his side, even if Defrel didn’t manage to get on the scoresheet.
The 23-year-old’s lightning pace – compared to that of Juan Cuadrado by boss Di Carlo – makes him a considerable threat on the counter that all opponents must respect.
And instead of running into blind alleys with no way out, Defrel can beat his man, too. He’s rather discerning in this regard – 21 total dribbles this term – but that’s an admirable trait given that Cesena can ill-afford to squander what little possession they have.
In short, Defrel can affect a game even when he isn’t scoring, something he doesn’t have the opportunity to do so often considering the lack of creativity around him.
Consider that Defrel has taken only 22 shots all season, just a tick over one per appearance. Twelve of these have hit the target, testing the goalkeeper 55% of the time.
And with five hitting the back of the net, he’s rung up a 23% conversion rate. That’s a better figure than Dybala has posted – 19.7% – and only slightly behind the numbers boasted by Carlos Tevez and Mauro Icardi in a key area.
What’s clear is that Defrel isn’t a wasteful forward. It takes concentration to perform as a forward for a side lacking in impetus.
The question now is whether Defrel can carry over his success from the provinces to a bigger stage, where the flow of matches for him would be of a different feel.
All of the clubs the 23-year-old has been linked with play a more expansive game than Cesena, some to a greater degree than others. Adapting would take personal adjustment.
How suitable a signing Defrel would be will take assessment from the likes of Juventus, Spurs and West Ham based on the evidence of this season.
Defrel has certainly made a case for himself in a less-than-ideal situation – a move to a brighter spotlight is merited, but to where remains to be seen.