1. FC Union Berlin's busy transfer period continues apace with the announcement of their third signing of the winter, midfielder Aïssa Laïdouni. The 26-year-old Tunisian international comes to Berlin from the record champions of Hungary, Ferencvaros Budapest.
From Paris to the Loire
Laïdouni grew up in Montfermeil, a suburb in the east of Paris. He has played for Tunisia, where his mother was born, since March 2021.
But it wasn't in the Paris suburbs that he began his first steps in professional football. Laïdouni left the capital at an early age and made his way to the Loire, in the west of France, to start his career at SCO Angers - about an hour away from Nantes.
In 2016, at the age of 19, he took to the pitch for them for the first time in Ligue 1, stepping in suddenly as a right-back. However, that remained his only appearance for the club. For the next two seasons he would drop down to the Championnat National, the French third division, for loan spells at nearby Les Herbiers VF and then at FC Chambly but soon the time was right for a much bigger change of scenery.
From Romania to Hungary, to the World Cup with Tunisia
His path was somewhat winding, and led him first to Romania, where he signed a contract for the 2018/19 season at FC Voluntari, not far from the capital Bucharest. Laïdouni stayed there for two seasons, becoming a certainty on the team-sheet, and establishing his presense and reputation in the centre of midfield. But it was at Voluntari that the then 23-year-old’s performances drew the attentions of a club whose name is redolent with success throughout the history of European football, Ferencvaros Budapest.
Having signed for the 33-time Hungarian champions, Laïdouni quickly became a leading player. Since his debut at the start of the 2020/21 season, the 26-year-old featured a total of 102 times for the Budapest side, also also gaining valuable experience in the Europa and Champions Leagues (where he scored against Bayer Leverkusen and Dinamo Kiev respectively.)
The past two years have been the most successful of Laïdouni’s career so far, as illustrated by his first call-up for the Tunisian national team for the first time in March 2021. He followed that with his first championship title with Ferencvaros the following May.
Then came the crowning glories, so far at least. 2022 started with Laïdouni featuring in his first African Cup of Nations in Cameroon, before winning the double with Ferencvaros and then, rounding off the year nicely, starring in the World Cup in Qatar. In the Emirate, Laïdouni started all three of Tunisia’s group matches, including the win over France.
Since his debut in March 2021, Laïdouni has now made 28 international appearances for Les Aigles de Carthage – the Carthage Eagles - as a classic, dynamic box-to-box midfielder, and was named Tunisia's Footballer of the Year 2022 by the state news agency TAP.
Three facts about Aïssa:
Starring on the World Stage: Aïssa was named Player of the Match after the 0-0 draw with Denmark at the World Cup in Qatar.
Playing alongside the best: He played against both Lionel Messi (Barcelona) and Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus) with Ferencvaros in the 2020 Champions League group stage.
The magic number: At Ferencvaros Laïdouni wore the number 93, the administrative number of the Saint-Denis district he calls home.
The views on the Transfer
For Laïdouni, the move to Union is more than a step in the right direction. "It is the dream of every professional footballer to play in one of the best leagues in the world," he said. "So I'm very happy to be able to prove myself in the Bundesliga. From everything I have seen and heard so far, Union are a friendly, but also a passionate and ambitious club. I'm convinced I'll fit in well here and will give everything to be successful with Union."
"Aïssa's ability has been known to us for some time. His box-to-box play, his intensity and his understanding of the game will help us to bring further qualities into our game," commented Union's director of professional football, Oliver Ruhnert, on the transfer.