N'Zonzi playing for Stoke City in 2013
|Full name||Steven N'Kemboanza Mike
|Date of birth||15 December 1988|
|Place of birth||Colombes, France|
|Height||1.90 m (6 ft 3 in)|
|Playing position||Defensive midfielder|
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 9 June 2016.
N'Zonzi began his career with Ligue 2 side Amiens SC impressing enough to earn a move to English Premier League side Blackburn Rovers in 2009 for £500,000. He spent three years at Ewood Park which ended with Rovers being relegated at the end of the 2011–12 season. He remained in the Premier League however joining Stoke City for £3 million. At Stoke N'Zonzi established himself as a key member of the squad under Tony Pulis and then under Mark Hughes where his performances during the 2014–15 earned him the Player of the Year award. He joined Spanish side Sevilla for a fee of £7 million in July 2015, and won the UEFA Europa League in his first season.
He has represented France at under-21 level. N'Zonzi is of Congolese descent, and has been called up to the Democratic Republic of the Congo national football team, but has yet to agree to play for them.
N'Zonzi was born in Colombes, France and began his career playing for hometown club Racing Paris. In 1999, he joined the youth system of Paris Saint-Germain playing at the Camp des Loges, the club's youth academy. While at Paris Saint-Germain, N'Zonzi, due to his height, was initially installed in the club's academy as a striker and then as an attacking midfielder. After a three-year stint at the Ligue 1 club, he moved to the Basse-Normandie region joining CA Lisieux. He later had one-year stints at both SM Caen and AS Beauvais Oise before finally settling in with Amiens SC in 2005.
After featuring in the Championnat de France amateur 2 for his first two years at the club, N'Zonzi made his professional debut on 24 November 2007 in a Coupe de France match against amateur club AS Raismes appearing as a substitute in the 74th minute, Amiens won the match 7–0. He earned his first start on 15 April 2008 playing the entire 90 minutes in a 1–0 loss to Bastia. Following the season, he signed his first professional contract and was officially promoted to the senior team.
N'Zonzi was given the starting defensive midfielder role for the 2008–09 season and appeared in 36 total matches. He also scored his first professional goal in a 2–1 defeat to Strasbourg on 8 May 2009. The defeat to Strasbourg led to Amiens going winless in their final four matches, which led to the club suffering relegation to the Championnat National, France's third division of football. Despite the relegation, N'Zonzi was applauded for his play and he was linked with a move to the English Premier League, with Blackburn Rovers and Portsmouth showing a serious interest in the young Frenchman, who many hailed as the next Patrick Vieira.
On 28 June 2009, it was reported that Blackburn Rovers had agreed a deal with Amiens to sign N'Zonzi. The move was completed on 30 June, signing for a fee believed to be in the region of £500,000, on a four-year contract.
On 15 August 2009, N'Zonzi made his debut for Blackburn where he made his first start in a 2–0 loss against Manchester City and since making his debut, found himself very much part of Sam Allardyce's plans. He scored his first goal for Rovers on 4 October 2009 against Arsenal in the 6–2 defeat. After scoring his first goal, N'Zonzi admitted he had been surprised at how quickly he had established himself in the side but was determined to keep his place in the starting XI. His second goal for the club was a 30-yard strike against Everton on 17 April 2010 in a 3–2 defeat at Ewood Park. On 3 May 2010, during the pre-match build up to the Arsenal game, he was announced as the Blackburn Rovers Player of the Year for the 2009–10 season, chosen by the fans.
In August 2010, N'Zonzi signed a new five-year deal with Blackburn, lasting until summer 2015. Rovers chairman John Williams said: "We are delighted to secure Steven for the long term. He was outstanding last year and the new deal is richly deserved." On 21 August 2011, N'Zonzi scored his third goal for Blackburn with a header against Birmingham City in a 2–1 defeat at St Andrew's. Soon after N'Zonzi found himself dropping down the pecking order as a result of both Phil Jones and Vince Grella's form in midfield. This led Allardyce urged him to raise his game and recapture his form of last season. Later on in his second season, Allardyce was sacked and replaced by Steve Kean. On 2 April 2011, N'Zonzi received his first red card of his career in a 0–0 draw against Arsenal two-footed challenge on Laurent Koscielny. N'Zonzi was banned for 4 matches and on 30 April 2011, N'Zonzi made his return in a 1–0 win over Bolton Wanderers.
On 26 November 2011 against Stoke City, N'Zonzi was hit with a violent conduct charge for intentionally elbowing Ryan Shawcross in the face. N'Zonzi served a three-match ban after admitting an FA charge of violent conduct. Reports speculates that N'Zonzi could head a number of high-profile departures which Kean need to sell in order to finance some of their planned arrivals . However, N'Zonzi never moved during the winter transfer window. On 11 February 2012, N'Zonzi scored his first goal of the season and set up a goal for the club top scorer Yakubu Aiyegbeni in a 3–2 win over Queens Park Rangers. On 24 March 2012, N'Zonzi scored his second goal of the season in a 2–1 loss against Bolton Wanderers. At the end of the season, Blackburn were relegated for the first time in 11 seasons and N'Zonzi told manager Steve Kean he wanted to leave.
On 31 August 2012, N'Zonzi joined Stoke City for a fee of £3 million. He made his debut for Stoke in a 1–1 draw at home to Manchester City on 15 September 2012 and his performance earned him the man of the match award. Impressed with N'Zonzi's start to his Stoke career manager Tony Pulis believes that he will one day play in the Champions League. N'Zonzi was sent off for a "studs-up" challenge on Jack Cork in a 3–3 draw with Southampton on 29 December 2012. However no contact was made with Cork and Pulis decided to appeal Mark Clattenburg's decision. His red card was later rescinded by the FA. After reacting angrily to suffering a broken nose against Fulham, N'Zonzi was told to keep his temperament in check by assistant manager David Kemp. He scored his first goal for Stoke in a 2–1 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur on 12 May 2013. He ended the 2012–13 season having made 38 appearances for the club but once the campaign had come to an end he revealed that he was unhappy at the club and handed in a transfer request. His request was rejected by the club.
Under new manager Mark Hughes, N'Zonzi remained at Stoke going into the 2013–14 and he produced a man of the match performance against West Ham United on 31 August 2013. However, after this his performances dropped off and assistant manager Mark Bowen advised N'Zonzi to stop his 'theatrical sulks'. On 23 November 2013 he scored and provided an assist in a 2–0 win over Sunderland. He was sent-off in the return fixture against Sunderland on 29 January 2014. After serving his suspension N'Zonzi spent time on the bench much to his frustration. He returned to the starting line-up and scored in a 4–1 win over Aston Villa on 23 March 2014. He played 40 times for Stoke in 2013–14 as the team finished in 9th position and N'Zonzi stated that he is happy playing for Stoke under Mark Hughes. However he handed in a transfer request for a second season running. A move away from Stoke in the summer transfer window did not materialise, despite this N'Zonzi insisted he is happy to carry on playing for Stoke.
N'Zonzi was an ever-present in 2014–15, playing 42 times as Stoke finished in ninth position for a second consecutive campaign. He also scored a career best of four goals which were against Southampton, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and in a 6–1 victory over Liverpool on the final day of the season. N'Zonzi's performances during the campaign earned him the Player of the Year award. In June 2015 with N'Zonzi entering his final year on his contract manager Mark Hughes tried to convince him to agree to sign a new contract. However his efforts were unsuccessful and the club 'reluctantly' accepted a £7 million offer from Sevilla. In total N'Zonzi spent three seasons at Stoke making 120 appearances scoring seven goals.
On 9 July 2015, N'Zonzi signed for Sevilla for a club-record fee around the region of £7 million, after 3 successive years at Stoke City. N'Zonzi signed a four-year contract with the Spanish club, which includes a €30 million (£21.5m) buyout clause. On 22 August, he was sent off on his debut in a goalless draw at Málaga CF.
N'Zonzi initially struggled with the immense heat in Andalusia, and a style of play based on retention of the ball and technical ability, but entered a period of good form in the second half of the season, culminating in Sevilla winning the UEFA Europa League final against Liverpool in Basel.
N'Zonzi earned his first call up to the France U-21 team by coach Erick Mombaerts on 1 October 2009 for their European Under-21 Championship qualification matches against Malta and Belgium. N'Zonzi made his debut in the Malta match appearing as a 58th-minute substitute in a 2–0 victory on Friday 9 October 2009. He earned his first under-21 international start in the match against Belgium, which ended 0–0.
In January 2011 he was called up to the national football team of the Democratic Republic of the Congo because his father was from the African country, but he did not want to commit to the international team due to structural problems at the administrative level. He did not rule out playing for the Congolese national team in the future. He again turned DR Congo down in November 2012.
Style of play
N'Zonzi plays in centre midfield and is noted for being calm and composed whilst in possession and having a good passing ability. He has earned comparisons to compatriot Patrick Vieira both in style and physical ability. He is also able to cover great distance during a match.
In September 2013 N'Zonzi was interviewed by police after he was involved in a collision with a cyclist in Hale, Greater Manchester. In October 2015 N'Zonzi was ordered to stand trial after allegedly assaulting his wife. He was cleared of the charges in December 2015.
|Club||Season||League||FA Cup||League Cup||Other||Total|
|Blackburn Rovers||2009–10||Premier League||33||2||0||0||5||0||—||38||2|
|Stoke City||2012–13||Premier League||35||1||3||0||0||0||—||38||1|
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- "UEFA Europa League Squad of the Season". UEFA. 20 May 2016.
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