Among the many familiar tropes of English football, there’s a special place for the foreign player misquoted in the press back home. Given the shared interests of agents and journalists in detonating a suitably explosive bombshell, it’s hardly surprising that the player and his relationship with the club (and fans) can become collateral damage. Of course, in the famously monolingual Anglophone world, mistranslation can be a convenient alibi for all concerned.

And so to Allan Saint-Maximin, whose latest expressions of humility were busy generating clicks and sales for the French football magazine So Foot this week. Picking up excerpts from that interview trailed on the magazine’s website, English outlets reported Maxi opining not only on his own talent but also on the shortcomings of his teammates. “Those who have played with me know very well that, in terms of pure quality, I have no reason to envy Sadio Mane,” ran the quotes on Yahoo Sport, before giving way to the kind of wretched machine-translated prose that makes Steve Bruce look like a master wordsmith. “The day when I have a player capable of finishing the actions, I will make seasons with 10 to 15 assists. I will change dimension in people’s heads.”Errrm, quite.

Sadly for those hoping to spare ASM the opprobrium already descending on him from a great height on social media, the only deficiencies in the translation lie in its style, not its substance. Even the sharpest and most imaginative of lawyers would struggle to find a cigarette paper of difference between the meaning of Saint-Maximin’s original French words and their rendering in English. He was manifestly not the victim of creative mistranslation.

If not mistranslated, then perhaps misquoted or, rather, quoted selectively and out of context?  The full text of the interview is only available in the new edition of So Foot, but those platforms that have carried fuller extracts suggest that this line of defence will fail too. The specifics are more nuanced, but the broad intentions behind his comments have been accurately reported, even if the publishers have represented them in the most headline-grabbing way.

Perhaps the major difference in the full discussion in the interview is the purpose with which Saint Maximin uses Mané as a point of comparison. The point is not to argue that he is as good a player in a like-for-like way, but rather that their equivalent quality means that he deserves to play alongside players of that level. As an example Saint-Maximin cites Liverpool’s fourth goal against Man United, scored by Mané and credited as an assist to Diaz. Essentially, he argues that Diaz, with his “normal cross”, owes his assist entirely to Mané’s finishing talent. Hence, the logic that he will contribute more assists alongside better players since he already makes “a lot of key passes”. And, as he claims directly, “the fact that it ends in a goal or not isn’t up to you.”

That’s undoubtedly true to an extent, since ASM features at the top of the list of players making so-called key passes outside the “big six”. But to suggest that he is creating good chances that are not being converted by those around him is not borne out by reality. I genuinely struggle, for example, to recall a single gilt-edged opportunity created by the Frenchman and missed by a United player this season, and the data points in the same direction. His tally of expected assists stands at 4.9 as against four actual assists. Good by the standards of our squad, but scarcely suggestive of multiple missed opportunities and, it hardly needs to be said, a very long way from the 10 to 15 assists he claims as his true level.

Of course, there is mitigation for his end-product in the quality of players around him. Apart from the other-worldly Bruno, ASM remains by some distance our most talented and dangerous player. For too long, he has carried the team’s only threat and the corresponding attention of double or triple marking. He deserves the chance to show what he can do with better players around him. Mind you, he may find that’s a double-edged sword.

Indispensable for so long, Maxi has been indulged. Even Howe has recognised his unique status in the squad and tried to build a structure around him, forgiving him pressing and covering duties that are expected of every other player and recently persisting in giving him the chance to lead the line in a role to which he is manifestly unsuited. But when better players surround him, those special dispensations will surely be withdrawn.

Perhaps most important, though, is not the same old tired debate about Saint-Maximin’s strengths and weaknesses on the pitch, but what the interview reveals (or confirms)about his mentality. Prepared to sacrifice colleagues’ reputations while mentioning himself in the same breath as Michael Jordan, these same delusions of grandeur and the same self-indulgent image as a misunderstood genius were apparent in the lengthy interview he gave last year.

Managing egos is part of Howe’s job, of course, but as The Telegraph’s Luke Edwards recently pointed out on the TF podcast, Howe is a football nerd, boring in the best possible way and entirely uninterested in the trappings of celebrity. He also rescued our transfer window, stepping in as de facto director of football and insisting on the highly professional character-led approach that brought in Targett and Burn. Both are the epitome of the industriousness that Howe espouses and the antithesis of our archetypal “mercurial” winger.

Ominously for Saint-Maximin, Howe has also been clear in public about the principles underlying his squad building: “It’s got to be someone who fits in the structure of the team and makes the team better, not just a very good individual.” Howe has to work with what he’s got, for now, but it’s obvious he would never have signed Saint-Maximin. It’s obvious too that the two of them speak different footballing languages. Howe is unashamedly a roundhead to Saint-Maximin’s cavalier.

Can the two of them find a lingua franca? Saint-Maximin just made that prospect more remote, and he might find that this is the beginning of the end.

Matthew Philpotts @mjp19731