Socceroo Denis Genreau becoming a key player in France
Denis Genreau made headlines this winter with his transfer to historic French club Toulouse.
Three months later, Genreau is living the dream as a regular starter with the Ligue 2 leaders.
Genreau wears the number 5 jersey for Toulouse. (Getty Images)
Genreau’s talent needs no introduction.
From his professional debut with Melbourne City at 17-years-old to his call-up with the Olyroos for the Tokyo Olympics, the French-born midfielder has slowly but surely gone from strength to strength.
After a short stint in Europe in 2018 at PEC Zwolle, his breakout season with the new A-League Men club Macarthur in 2020/21 offered him the opportunity to fly back to the Old Continent to join Toulouse.
His solid season in South-West Sydney was rewarded with the inaugural Macarthur Medal.
His new club Toulouse is historically a top-tier side, having spent only four seasons away from Ligue 1 since 1982.
The club’s most famous feat on the European scene was beating Diego Maradona’s Napoli in 1985.
But they are also famous for having developed seasoned French internationals past and present.
The most famous products of the Toulouse academy include Fabien Barthez, Moussa Sissoko, André-Pierre Gignac and Wissam Ben Yedder.
Toulouse was relegated to Ligue 2 following a catastrophic shortened 2019/20 Ligue 1 season.
They could only tally 13 points in 28 games.
The following season, under Patrice Garande’s attractive style of football, they came close to promotion, only losing the promotion/relegation play-off to Nantes on away goals.
Garande was sacked, and new coach Philippe Montanier brought the same brand of football to a club whose ambitions are simple: get promoted as soon as possible.
Genreau’s transfer came as a surprise in France since the player was relatively unknown in the Hexagone.
In a city where Australian players usually sign for the other club, Stade Toulousain, who play a different sport, rugby union, Genreau’s performances quickly convinced the locals.
One of the main reasons for his choice was, of course, his family.
Most of the Genreau family are all based in the South of France, between Toulouse and Montpellier.
Genreau had a little accident in his starting debut against Grenoble. (Toulouse FC)
A week after Ligue 2 had started, the Olyroos’ number 10 was the third signing of the summer, along with Ado Onaiwu and Mikkel Desler.
The three are now in the starting line-up week in, week out.
Fresh off the Olympics, Genreau arrived fit and ready to go and played his first minutes in mid-August against Bastia.
The Australian had missed the first three games, was on the bench for his first four, and then started the last four encounters.
“He basically forced himself into the starting line-up by his performances when he entered in [previously], and I have to pick my most competitive eleven,” Montanier stated in a press conference at the end of September.
Genreau recorded his first assist against Grenoble at home.
But his workload is what cemented his spot in the squad.
The heat map below shows that although he has been selected as a central midfielder, he often drifts out to the right-hand side.
His versatility and stamina are more reasons for Montanier to use him, given the demanding playing style the coach has put in place.
Genreau is used to disrupt the opponents’ build-up play early, to be on the front line of that high press the Toulouse coach lives by.
In possession, the Australian’s ability to direct the ball forward, and break lines with one pass, is also vital for Toulouse.
This season, his pass accuracy is 82% so far, with two-thirds of his passes executed in the opponents’ half; proof of the offensive mindset Montanier instils in his squad.
Genreau defines himself as a box-to-box midfielder with above-average stamina and an eagerness always to give 110%.
After 11 games, Toulouse is top with seven wins, three draws, and one loss, and they also lead the league in average ball possession (60%) and goals scored (22).
Graham Arnold even sang the young midfielder's praises in his press conference before the Socceroo’s recent qualifier against Oman in Qatar.
Genreau with Australia at the Tokyo Olympics. (Getty Images)
The manager is fully aware that Genreau could be an example for Australian clubs giving their chance to youngsters and young players willing to start an adventure abroad.
“You just look at Denny when he comes into camp; he already looks like a different player; physically a completely different player as well,” Arnold said.
“Every week is different; there are no easy games. Regardless of where the other team is on the table, every game is difficult,” Genreau said recently.
“You go away [and] there are big crowds at every stadium. Now that we’re first and we were undefeated, every team that comes up against us ends up having their best performance of the year because they want to try and beat and stop us.
“It’s good to be the hunted team, and it makes you realise that you have to be switched on every single game.”
The future looks bright for the young Socceroo.
He could become only the second player in Graham Arnold’s squad to play in a top-tier league in the big five (England, Spain, Germany, Italy, France) next year, with Ajdin Hrustic in the Bundesliga.
This Australian generation of footballers looks ready to make waves, to “shock the world”, as Arnold said before the Olympics.
Genreau will be waiting patiently for the national team to start him, and undoubtedly, he won’t disappoint.
He will hope to replicate the same form as Toulouse, where he is already being touted as one of their most important players so far.