After initially agreeing on a fee in the region of £37million back in October, Amad Diallo is edging closer to becoming a Manchester United player.
The MEN reported on Sunday that United are in the process of finalising the remaining paperwork for Diallo’s work permit ahead of his expected move to England in the coming weeks.
Ole Gunnar Solakjer has already expressed his excitement at bringing the 18-year-old to Old Trafford and said on New Year’s Day: “We’re waiting for other paperworks. I can’t see any obstacles, really, so hopefully he’ll be with us in not too long.
“Very excited about bringing him in. He’s shown a few times his qualities but he has to learn that playing in England is a different type of football, so we’ll give him time to develop.”
It’s a positive that Solskajer is already acknowledging that it may take time for Diallo to adjust to his new surroundings. Sometimes at other clubs, there is an expectation for players to come in and have an immediate impact, however, this pressure can have a detrimental impact on an already difficult period of transition for a player in a new country, with a new language and culture.
Yet based on qualities he’s already exhibited with Atalanta, it shouldn’t take the attacker too long to start finding his feet should he be nurtured in the right environment at United.
Throughout his career so far, Diallo has featured predominantly as a right-sided attacker, although there’s a versatility to his game meaning he can be used either through the middle or even in a centre-forward position.
He’s not the tallest at 5ft8in, or the most physically imposing, however, age is important to remember here. As he progresses in the coming years, you’d expect him to add more muscle and consequently strength to his game.
This isn’t to say he’s noticeably lightweight on the ball now, in fact, he’s often deceivingly strong, aided by both a low centre of gravity and steely determination.
An example of this is below, taken from Atalanta’s 1-1 draw with Midtjylland in the Champions League. Here, Diallo receives a pass at chest height and is under immense pressure from a bigger defender behind him.
The 18-year-old holds off the pressure with good strength and exhibits impressive technical skill to keep the ball close to his feet and away from nearby extra defenders looking to pressure him.
The Midtjylland defender is unable to dispossess the teenager, and his frustration eventually boiled over resulting in him sliding in and bringing down Diallo for a free-kick.
Despite playing predominantly on the right, Diallo is left-footed. This means he’s probably going to be more of a goal-getter than provider for United, opting to cut into central areas as opposed to driving to the byline and crossing into the penalty area. The underlying numbers would also support this.
Data is sparse due to his age, however, from across just over 3000 minutes in various senior and youth competitions, Diallo has averaged 3.5 shots, but just 1.6 crosses per 90. This isn’t to say he won’t be a creative threat at Old Trafford though, after all, he’s still averaged 2.6 passes per 90 that led directly to a shot on goal.
Although he is left-footed on paper, there’s a case to be made that he’s fairly ambidextrous, playing passes and making touches with either foot with relative ease.
This aids his dribbling threat and across that same sample of minutes, he’s averaged nine dribbles per 90 with a good success rate of 54 per cent. For comparison, Marcus Rashford has averaged the most dribbles in the Premier League for Manchester United with six per 90, and he’s had a success rate of roughly 45 per cent from the same.
Another thing that aids Diallo’s dribbling threat is his speed. It gives him extra agility against defenders in 1v1 duels, assists him in driving away from his opponent quickly and also in making clever runs in behind a defensive line.
The speed in which he can hit top gear is impressive. He’s not a player who gradually builds up to fastest pace over 15- 20 yards but instead explodes almost instantly.
For his age, he illustrates good tactical awareness too, knowing what positions to occupy in build-up sequences, and also contributing without the ball, pressing in a coordinated manner with teammates around him.
Naturally, there’s still plenty of development to come, particularly in areas such as his decision making inside the final third, but at his age, this is normal.
Coming to a club like United who have a history of developing exciting prospects into top senior players has only enhanced his prospects of becoming a top-class player himself, and in the long term, his success should also prove to be United’s as they reap the benefits of his evolution for several years to come.