Melbourne City sign former Ligue 1 & Serie A defender: ‘The perfect character to bring into our changeroom’

Melbourne City have bolstered their defensive stocks by signing experienced French defender Samuel Souprayen on a two-year-deal.

Souprayen arrives at City after spending the last two seasons at Bulgarian outfit Blotev Plovdid, following an extensive career playing in the French and Italian top flight.

The versatile 34-year-old defender – who can play both at centre and left-back – made 90 appearances for Serie A side Hellas Verona along with a number of years in France at Dijon, Stade Rennais and AJ Auxerre.

He was also managed by former City boss Erick Mombaerts while playing for several of France’s youth national teams.

INS AND OUTS: Isuzu UTE A-League 2023-24 Transfer Centre

His arrival helps mitigate the losses of Finnish international Thomas Lam and left-backs Jordan Bos – who signed for Belgian side KVV Westerlo – and recently retired Scott Jamieson as Rado Vidosic’s side looks to re-tool its defence ahead of the upcoming campaign.

Souprayen said he was looking forward to a new challenge down under, having also liaised with Florin Berenguer prior to signing – who he spent time with at Dijon.

“I decided to come and play in Australia because I like new challenges, and the opportunity to play in a new country and fight for silverware was too good to pass up,” Souprayen said.

“Melbourne City is a big club that fights for trophies, and I’m a fierce competitor, so this seemed  like the perfect challenge for me. 

“I spoke with Florin Berenguer who had nothing but good things to say about the club and the city, so I’m really excited to be joining Melbourne City.”

City Director of Football Michael Petrillo described Souprayen as the “perfect character” to arrive at the club as they embark on a quasi-rebuild – having parted ways with 11 players this off-season.

“Samuel is a very experienced defender who has great physical presence, speed and a strong ability to play out from the back,” Petrillo said.

“After a significant turnover of experienced players, he has the perfect character to bring into our changeroom, which was a very important reason for his recruitment. 

“Having played 31 games last season, Samuel has shown he is in great physical condition and  very capable of performing at a high level.

Souprayen is City’s eighth off-season arrival, joining midfielders Tolgay Arslan, Steven Ugarkovic and Terry Antonis, along with experienced keeper Jamie Young and young trio Alessandro Lopane, Zane Schreiber and Patrick Beach as the club’s newest players.

City begin their 2023/24 campaign with an Australia Cup Round of 32 meeting against NPL Victoria champions Oakleigh Cannons on August 13.

Who is Samuel Souprayen?

Souprayen arrives in Melbourne after a 15-year career playing across Europe in France, Italy and most recently – Bulgaria.

He started his career at Rennes in 2008 and featured alongside the likes of Ghanian forward Asamoah Gyan, former Western United midfielder Tongo Doumbia and French international Yann M’Vila, before signing with Dijon in 2011.

He spent the bulk of his career playing for Les rouges, making over 100 appearances over four years and spending a portion of that sharing the pitch with City teammate – Florin Berenguer – who he reunites with almost a decade later.

In 2015, he took his talents to Hellas Verona – where he featured 90 times in all competitions – alongside a host of quality players including Italian legend Luca Toni, Mexican superstar Rafael Marquez, Giampaolo Pazzini, Moise Kean and Alessio Cerci.

During his time at the club, they were relegated from Serie A in 2016, before achieving promotion back to the Italian top-flight the following year.

He then returned to France with Ligue 2 side Auxurre in 2018, prior to joining Bulgarian outfit Botev Plovdiv in 2021 – where he spent two seasons before signing with City ahead of the upcoming Isuzu UTE A-League campaign.

His best trait is perhaps his versatility – having played as both a centre-back and left-back throughout his career – and that’s something he spoke about with Melbourne City media when asked about what sort of player he is.

“My style, I was a central-defender before I started to play left back,” he said.

“I’m tall, I’m not slow, but I’m not a fast guy [either]. I have experience and I try to defend up the pitch and I will say I’m an intelligent guy!”

During Souprayen’s overseas ventures, he came up against a myriad of top quality players – particularly in his role at both centre-back and left-back – and the 34-year-old was asked about who his best opponents were.

“I have two best players [that I had come up against],” he said.

“First one, when I was in France I played against Eden Hazard and honestly, this player, my friend, when you see him in a pitch, he’s a different guy.

“When he was in Lille, now, I know, when you speak about Hazard at Real Madrid, he is not the same player, but when he was at Lille, he was a top player, quick, fast, dribbling everything he can do on the pitch.

“When he has the ball, something happens all the time.

“When I was in, Serie A, a lot of players. [Paul] Pogba, Mohamed Salah, [Edin] Dzeko, [Gonzalo] Higuain. So many big names.

“We played against Juventus, Pogba is amazing. Amazing guy and amazing at everything.”

At international level, he played for a number of French youth teams, including the Under 20 side that featured at the 2009 Mediterranean Games and was captained by former Western Sydney Wanderers midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin.

Souprayen also made two appearances for the Under 21 outfit too, which was coached by ex-City boss Erick Mombaerts.