Ismael Bouzid’s career is atypical of a player whose talents have seen him represent Algeria’s national team on twelve separate occasions. The 30-year old began his career in his birth country of France & has bounced from club-to club – playing for five different clubs in a span of five years after leaving Metz. It wasn’t until he got to Hearts that he was able to find a home – at least for a little while – two seasons to be exact. Injuries & contract squabbles have plagued him nearly each step of the way.
In a recent interview with Romain Molina for the French football site, Hat Trick, he discussed his tumultuous career.
He began as a youth player at Metz,where he was a teammate with Emmanuel Adebayor – who Bouzid described as, “having those elastic arms” & being “as quick as a feline.”
In 2001, he had lined up a trial with Peter Reid’s Sunderland club – who he claims were ready to sign the then 18-year old but the agent’s desires to hold out for a better deal (& a better commission for the agent) led to the deal falling apart in Bouzid’s eyes.
Injuries then crept in & Bouzid moved to the lower leagues in Germany looking to spark his career. In the 89th minute of his second game with Union Berlin – his arm was broken in a collision & it would keep him out of action for four months.
Bouzid tells Molina, “It was a season of shit.” So after that he went to his family’s homeland – Algeria in his constant struggle to make it as a professional footballer.
He joined MC Alger, one of the biggest clubs in Algeria. Playing in the club’s derby match – in front of 90,000 fans – Bouzid scored a key goal. He exclaimed, “I scored the goal … You have a feeling of drugs. 90,000 people smoke, it’s still something strong.”
His performance in Algeria caught the eye of Kaiserslautern in Germany’s second division & Bouzid’s career finally took a turn for the better. “After three games, a defender recieved a red card & came took over. I never left my post.” However, a squabble during contract negotiations for a second season soured the relationship & Bouzid was yet again sent packing. This time to Turkey & to Galatasaray.
This was a whole new level of competition for Bouzid, as he was competing with Rigobert Song – who was capped by Cameroon 137 times – & Servet Cetin – who featured 59 times for the Turkish national team. Bouzid did manage ten appearances that season, mostly off the bench. He then returned to France & experienced another “failure – on all levels. Even on a personal level, I did not manage to find the motivation.”
Somehow, through it all Bouzid was plucked from the rubbish heap by Hearts & finally saw his career bounce back to an upward trajectory. He made 63 starts in all competitions during his two seasons in Edinburgh. Bouzid told Molina, “I loved the club & the atmosphere.”
Then the sadly predictable occurred as another disagreement over contract terms led to his departure in search of a new home. This trend continued as Bouzid played for three clubs in the two years after Hearts – making only a total of 22 appearances in that tme- largely due to lingering injury issues.
Then in 2013, he got the call from Kilmarnock for his services. Bouzid looked to return to Scotland to keep his World Cup dreams alive.
“This is my only chance to maybe make the World Cup.”
Bouzid made his debut for Kilmarnock in September 2013 against Partick Thistle & he was named Man of the Match & “they handed me a bottle of champagne.” He went on to start the next three matches & then against Ross County he suffered another injury.
“Against Ross County , I took a hit on the knee. I feel something. I’ll see the physio at halftime and I told him: ‘Alex, I feel something inside the knee.’ I can still play, but I feel that there is something floating in my knee. I am unable to bend properly, but I can run – so I finished the game.”
“I’m going home. My knee, it is like this (he mimes a huge ball) – I can no longer bend or extend it. A piece of bone ends up being cracked & on the spot they must operate. The light at the end of the tunnel has gone back to black.”
So does Bouzid have anything left to give? Russell Abercrombie, who is a blogger who covers Kilmarnock, believes that he has the potential – if Rangers give him a chance.
Abercrombie told Rangers Report, “In his early days, he looked to be forming a good partnership with Darren Barr and seemed to be what Killie were missing. I’ve seen him more than most as he played for my other side, Kaiserslautern too and he’s always been a good defender.”
“He is comfortable on the ball and good at bringing the ball out of defence. He would fit perfectly into a system where passing from the back is encouraged.”
Issues still lingered though – as contract squabbles & drama with management seem to follow Bouzid wherever he has gone.
“He gave an interview after leaving Kilmarnock complaining about the ‘pitiful’ wage we offered him, but he agreed to sign to force his way into the Algerian World Cup squad. He also said that no matter what he did, Allan Johnston wouldn’t select him after returning from injury early in the new year. There were mumblings of attitude issues and that might suggest why he rarely featured. For what its worth though, young Lee Ashcroft who is our new first choice defender is just as good (if not better) and doesn’t come with the same baggage.”
“If Rangers sign him then he won’t be cheap but he’ll do a job in the Championship if called on. If I were a Rangers fan then I’d be concerned if he was to be partnered with Bilel Mohsni as he seems a bit lackadaisical which wouldn’t bring out the best in Bouzid.”
So there you go — Ally McCoist will take the next few days to assess the Algerian defender – who can play both right back & center-half. There is a great deal to consider, beyond his performances on the pitch. Just a few days ago he told Romain Molina, “I have no pressure now. The national team is dead and I’m 31 years old.”
“Challenges like this past year where financially you earn €1,500 per month, I will not do it again because I am a father. I start to think, especially with repeated injuries that I’d like to go back to school to physio.”
You get the sense that Bouzid is seeing this opportunity with Rangers as being one more go at it before he transitions into another phase of his life. In the end, it will not be a surprise to see both club & player choose different paths for their futures.