‘The New Drogba’
One 2 Watch is a feature that has been on this blog ever since it was established way back in 2009. But it was born long before that. A year in fact, on a blog that lasted only a few months before disappearing deep into some unknown realm of the internet. When I look to profile a young player for a One 2 Watch feature I consider a couple of different factors before going about it. Firstly, I look to see if the player is particularly well known to most football fans. If he is, then I tend to avoid writing about the player because it’s like saying ‘look at this guy you already know about’, which is kind of boring. For this reason we’ve never profiled players such as Romelu Lukaku and Neymar, players who had been well documented before they had even hit 18-years of age.
Secondly, I find it important to consider whether or not the player can actually make it. We’ve featured quite a lot of players who have been bordering on their respective first teams (Toni Kroos, Mario Balotelli, Jordan Henderson). On other occasions we’ve seen players who are already established starters in their sides, but the type of player not everyone would have known of (Xherdan Shaqiri, Shinji Kagawa, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa). But never before has ‘One 2 Watch’ profiled a player who not only has yet to make a senior debut, but a player who has only played ten games at a competitive youth level. He falls into a new kind of category – the one ‘where he’s just done something insane so everyone is talking about him, but we still have no idea if he can make it’ category.
Mexico may have triumphed in front of a home crowd this past weekend, but the competition’s biggest impact on world football may have been born out of a 16-year-old boy who had fled to Italy with his father in order to avoid conflict in their home nation of the Cote D’Ivoire. Soon after arriving in Italy, Souleymane Coulibaly joined AC Siena, and this summer was chosen to represent the Ivory Coast at the U17 World Cup in Mexico. They got to the last sixteen of the tournament, scoring ten goals in the process. Coulibaly scored nine of them.
Of course, scoring nine goals in an underage tournament isn’t unheard of. The last player to score nine in this competition was Florent Sinama-Pongolle, once of Liverpool, a player who has fashioned a modest enough career to date in Spain and most recently in his home country of France.
As with Sinama-Pongolle, who was at famed youth club Saint-Pierroise at the time of his nine-goal World Cup haul, the attention has flared and he’s now been linked with every top club in Europe. All the usuals have been mentioned, most notably Real Madrid and Manchester United, while earlier this week it was said that Tottenham had beaten everyone to his signature, even though he’s probably still taking a well deserved break after his goalscoring antics in Mexico.
But let’s face it, you don’t score an overhead kick against Brazil and not turn heads. Coulibaly’s performances at the tournament were nothing short of sensational. At 16, he’s quite powerful and very, very quick. His physical attributes have plenty of time to grow and develop, obviously, but it’s fair to say he does have the right physicality to pursue a career spearheading an attack in any league that will have him.
With the ball at his feet, he’s liable to do anything. He’s got a deft touch, superb awareness and reaction, the mandatory flicks and tricks as well as a devastatingly good finishing ability. One area of game that was noteworthy during the competition was his capability to react and pounce on missed chances, as two of his goals can attest to. On two occasions the goalkeeper spilled the ball, and both times he was first onto the loose ball to tap it home. He’s got a fine right foot, and his left boot isn’t bad either.
Bearing in mind the quality of competition, it’s important not to get too overzealous on how good Coulibaly realistically is. Unsurprisingly, he has been hyped up and linked to a number of different clubs since his nine-goal haul, but even so there is genuine reason to believe that Souleymane can actually go on and make it in the big bad world of professional football. Siena will acknowledge the gem that has been afforded to them, and whether he stays with the club or leaves, he will be groomed into a player that can fulfil his unmitigated potential as a striker. I’m excited about this one.