Josh Taylor – @eeklykickabout
Big clubs are always on the lookout for young talent, and I will be looking at some of the U23s that make their clubs tick. The young midfield maestros.
Napoli have splashed their Higuain cash on some promising youngsters over the summer, with Piotr Zieliński costing them around £12m. But perhaps their biggest prospect is not the Pole with an eye for goal, but the man playing just behind him. 19 year old Amadou Diawara has the body and strength of a destroyer, standing at 6 feet tall, but he has incredible composure, passing and poise, meaning he is seen more of a regista, the metronome of Napoli’s 4-3-3.
Amadou Diawara was born on the 17th of July 1997, in Conakry, the capital of Guinea. He played at his local youth clubs, Syli Authentic and FC Séquence, until 2014, when he was discovered by Numukeh Tunkara and Roberto Visiani, who took him to San Marino. Diawara didn’t have the greatest start to his professional career, San Marino finished rock bottom of Serie C in 2014/15, with Diawara making 15 first team appearances. In that time, however, his talents were spotted by Bologna, who paid £420,000 for his services in July 2015. His first game came in August, where he came on as a sub against Lazio. He continued on to make 34 appearances for the club. In the summer, he was snapped up by Napoli for £12.5m
Diawara’s transfer, understatedly announced by Napoli’s president.
“Welcome too to Diawara” after revealing Milik and Zielinski
So far this season, he’s racked up 14 appearances for the club, but not for a lack of quality. He has one of the most in form and influential registas in Italy to replace, 25 year old Jorginho. Jorginho plays a special role at Napoli, allowing Hamsik to roam into the attacking third while linking up the play between the back four and the midfield. The passmap below illustrates this point perfectly. Jorginho has the most touches, the most possession and the most passes on the field, which, combined with his defensive stats of 3 interceptions and a perfect 100% tackle success rate, shows exactly what Diawara’s competition is.
But the young Guinean cannot be discouraged, and has fought hard for his place in the team. His most recent start came in the Coppa Italia, in a 3-1 win over Spezia, but his most recent Serie A was back in their festive fixture against Fiorientina, a slightly manic, attacking game with very few conclusions to be made on the quality of a midfield regista. Perhaps his best performance to date was in Napoli’s 2-1 win over Crotone, and when you delve deeper into the stats of the game, Diawara’s talents really start to shine. He had 7.9% of the possession, a full percent more than his closest challenger, and 1.3% more than Napoli’s key man, Marek Hamšík. He took 89 touches, made 64 passes, with a pass accuracy second only to defender Nikola Maksimović. Add in the most aerial duels won and a 100% tackle win rate, and you have a fantastic prospect for any club that plays flowing football, in need of a defensive lynchpin to start attacks as well as prevent them.
His stat radar gives further perspective to the many dimensions he has to his game, a focus on stringing together short passes as well as interceptions and tackles.
Chelsea have been interested in the past, but he could be a perfect fit for either of the Manchester clubs. Napoli, at the moment however, is the place to be in that regard, and with the club consistently challenging for the Champions league spots and even trying to topple the Old Lady, it may be the best place for him to stay.