Defying age with a string of stellar domestic and European performances, Napoli’s Amadou Diawara is on the fast-track to superstardom.
With talismanic captain Marek Hamsik spearheading the Partenopei in the middle of the park, few clubs enjoy as many riches as Napoli in this department, boasting names like Piotr Zielinski, Marko Rog and Allan. Manager Maurizio Sarri cherishes the luxury of options, but also faces the difficult challenge in assessing who offers the most on a given match-day. Look no further Mister Sarri, Amadou Diawara is your man.
An little known prospect 18 months ago, 19-year old Diawara continues to rapidly rise in Italy with Napoli, crafting out quite the reputation for himself in the top-flight and earning critical acclaim. Who is the Guinean-born teenage sensation turning heads in the Campania capital of Naples? Allow us the honour of introducing him.
Meet Amadou Diawara
Date of birth: 17 July 1997 (19 years old)
Position: Defensive Midfielder
Height: 1,83 metres
International caps: n/a
Carrying quite the reputation in identifying young talent, Pantaleo Corvino spotted young Amadou Diawara while in San Marino. Enamoured by his abilities, Bologna snapped up the Guinean teenager in the summer of 2015, a €300.000 move flying under the radar in the midst of intense transfer activity. Under Roberto Donadoni, Diawara took very little time to adjust to the top-flight, showing remarkable composure and skill over 34 appearances for the Rossoblu in his debut Serie A season. It wasn’t long before Diawara became the talk of the town, as several top clubs all sought the gifted midfielder’s services, including Juventus, Roma, Chelsea and Bayern Munich.
Donadoni and club president Joey Saputo understood the talent they had, but by Diawara skipping out on pre-season training, were forced to sell prematurely. In what turned out to be quite the summer for Napoli’s midfield, president Aurelio de Laurentiis beat his domestic rivals to the defensive midfielder, securing Diawara for 16 million euros.
Strengths and weaknesses
Amadou Diawara’s quality and maturity are unprecedented for a footballer his age. His performances for Napoli – specifically against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in the UEFA Champions League knockout phase – were age defying.
Armouring the back line, Diawara’s work as a defensive technician sets him apart from his league adversaries. While at Bologna, Donadoni assigned him the role of a ball-winning midfielder; pressing the carrier, disrupting play and then launching counter-attacks from the back. Diawara recovers possession at an alarming rate, but in order to do so, prerequisites of tactical understanding and intelligence are required. Knowing which areas to drop into, the Partenopei lynchpin can quickly close in on the ball before turning it up the pitch to a supporting player. Some individuals playing this role are often referred to as ‘destroyers,’ with the goal of causing mayhem, turnovers in the midfield and eliminating rhythm. What makes Diawara so special is that he is a two-way player, meaning he can effect a match just as much in the attacking phase. Diawara, as seen in this video, breaks lines by threading balls to a teammate running towards the box, or lofting one over the top into a wider window. To get an idea of his dynamism and effectiveness as a playmaker, take a look at the following metrics from Squawka per 90: total passes (78), total forward passes (46), successful passes (70), pass completion (90%), average pass length (15.7 m). The numbers jump off the page.
As for his weaknesses, consider his role under Sarri. Zielinski, Hamsik and Rog all like to get into advanced positions and exploit open pockets in the final third. Because Diawara has a very definitive role as a disrupting force, you won’t see him much as a threat as a goalscorer or provider of many assists; over nearly 60 top-flight appearances, he has not a single goal to his name, and only one assist. But, let’s not forget that he is just 19 and plays in a concentrated role. His metrics and overall skillset suggests that in time, and perhaps in a different setup down the road, the offensive numbers will come. In any case, Diawara is one of Italy most exciting prospects, and has only begun sniffing the surface of his limitless potential.
By now, you should have a strong understanding of Amadou Diawara’s profile a player. Although Maurizio Sarri values him tremendously, the reality is the one-club player is a dying breed. Modern football’s market inflation suggests a big money move is looming, so it’s only a matter of time until one of his previous admirer’s comes crawling back with a large offer. As for his international career, it was reported last month by Sky Italia that the teenager had begun the process of receiving documentation for Italian citizenship. Diawara, born in Guinea, has lived in Italy since February 2015, but questions still remain as to whether he will be eligible for an Italian National Team call-up. Then there is the controversial topic of granting naturalized foreigners, commonly referred to in Italy as “oriundi” which is a debate for another day.
If these past two seasons in Italy are any indication of his career trajectory, Diawara is on the brink of superstardom. In due time, his international status will be defined, and will have already blossomed into one of Europe’s elite midfielders. Still, with much to learn and the potential to be exceptional, the sky is the limit for this baby-faced teenager.
You can follow my football ramblings and various workings on Twitter @Matt_Santangelo.