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Amad Diallo: What is the next step?

When Manchester United finally announced that Amad Diallo had officially signed for the club there was a lot of positivity and hype around the young Ivorian. The 18 year old arrived with a huge price tag, with a reported initial fee of £19 million and £18.2 million in potential add-ons, this price tag led to some fans feeling the winger should be ready to hit the ground running, even at his very young age. 

However, Diallo only made eight appearances across all competitions for United in the 2020/21 season. During this time the young winger managed one goal and one assist, which was enough for United fans to see the potential of the Ivorian. 

The 2021/22 season promised to be a crucial one in the development of Diallo, as it would be his first full season as a United player. In the summer there were rumours that United were looking to loan out the youngster, The Daily Mailreported that a move was close the Dutch team Feyenoord, even though there was registered interest from Championship club Sheffield United and Premier League outfit Crystal Palace. 

This would have been an exciting loan move for Diallo, as it would have guaranteed him regular football in a competitive league that has a history of developing youth prospects. 

Unfortunately for all parties involved, the deal was called off at the last minute due to a thigh injury that was set to keep the youngster out of action for at least six weeks, as reported by the Daily Mail

This injury has stalled Amad’s development, as not only did it mean he couldn’t leave the club on loan, but it has also kept him out of United’s first team for the start of the campaign, having no minutes to his name yet. 

With Diallo seemingly back in first team training, as reported by Manchester Evening News, the time has come to decide what is next for the promising youngster. Of course, he could stay at United and try to break into the first team, however, after the summer signings of Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo, an already tough front line to break into has become even tougher for a young winger. 

Especially since out of his eight appearances last season for United, six of those appearances were as a right winger, which is a position being taken up by Sancho and Mason Greenwood. 

It would appear as though the next step for Diallo should be to go out on loan in the January transfer window, the reason for this being at present he is extremely unlikely to get a run of games for United’s first team, meaning he will be replacing those minutes by playing for the academy team. 

The academy teams are useful for bringing first team players back to full fitness, but there is also the worry that a player’s development can stagnate in academy teams due to games not being played at the same pace as the top leagues in Europe. 

However,  it must be noted that in three appearances for United under 23’s team last season, Diallo managed an impressive four goals and three assists, showing that at the under 23 level, he is more than comfortable. 

Hopefully the club will be able to find a suitable loan option, possibly reaching an agreement with Feyenoord once more as it seems as though all parties wanted that loan move to materialise during the summer. 

Whatever the case may be, United fans will be hopeful that the youngster can get a run of games at a club on loan and return to United with more experience, ready to force his way into the first team squad and prove the potential that the fans know he possess. 

Written by Jennifer McCord

Feyenoord to make fresh bid to take Amad Diallo on loan from January – reports

Feyenoord are reportedly ready to make a fresh bid to take Amad Diallo to the Eredivisie from January. The Dutch club were advancing in a. deal to sign the Ivory Coast winger during the summer transfer window, but. thigh injury ended that as the player would have been out of action for a few months, rendering the deal void, at least until the next transfer window.

The 19-year-old arrived at Manchester United from Atalanta during the January transfer window in 2021, after a deal was agreed towards the end of the summer transfer window in 2020. Amad joined United for an initial fee of £21.25 million, which could rise to £34 million if the add-ons are activated. So far the winger has been used sparingly, achieving more at U23 level than for the first team.

It is stated that Feyenoord still want to sign the winger on loan with the two clubs aiming to sort out a deal to be completed as soon as possible after the transfer window opens again on the 1 January 2022. The reports come from The Mirror, with them getting the information from Transfermarkt regarding the Dutch club. It would be a good transfer move for the teenager, who needs to find regular football in order to develop as a player.

Amad may be an inexperienced player but he has represented his country, playing with teammate and compatriot Eric Bailly during the summer Olympics in Tokyo. This led to the season starting late for the duo, which is where the winger got his injury, once he returned to training – although it could have happened at any time. This move would be beneficial for the winger as it will give him time, albeit away from scrutiny.

The Ivorian has played eight times at first team level for United, scoring one goal and one assist. At U23 level, he has played just three times, scoring four goals and three assists, which is impressive. During his time at Atalanta, he made just five appearances, scoring one goal – playing just 59 minutes of football at first team level, which was ended when United brought him to Manchester.

Arsenal academy player Reiss Nelson moved to the Rotterdam club in the summer, with the Dutch side seeking ore attacking talent for their squad. The England U21 winger has yet to feature for the club after suffering a groin injury, which could be the reason why the Rotterdam club now want to re-establish the loan move for Amad as the signing of the Arsenal player has not really strengthened their attack.

It has been reported that Amad could be back in training at some point in the not too distant future, which would be good for him and the team. United have a wealth of attacking talent at this time and Amad’s availability, when fully fit will be great for that. However, I would expect to see him play more football at U23 level, which will strengthen the squad at that level at this stage of the season.

The path to first team football at United will be tougher for Amad as he now have Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of him, not that Ronaldo, who will mostly play as a central striker, will impact him. However, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford will add to the competition for places in the starting XI. This is one of the reasons why a loan spell in January would be good for the Ivorian winger, as that will give him more confidence ahead of him breaking into the first team at the club.

I would fully expect this transfer to take place as soon as is possible as it was all but agreed when injury stopped it from happening. Of course, other clubs could come forward and state their case to signing the winger, but United will need guarantees of playing time as that is the whole purpose of a loan spell. If he goes to a club that is not going to give him playing time, there would be little point in completing that as it will just be wasting the players time.

Written by John Walker

Amad Diallo. Talented? Yes. But let’s be careful hyping him up too much.

A fresh start. A chance for everyone to leave behind a year where a pandemic swept the World and everything was put on hold. As the clocks hit 12 and the 1st of January hit us, Manchester United fans were super excited. 

Not about a new year. Oh no. 

About the arrival some have called a ‘generational talent’. Enter Amad Diallo. 

The transfer is not expected to be completed for a few days. A work permit needs to be officially requested but with Diallo receiving an Italian passport (Sky Sports) it shouldn’t prevent the move. 

However, this isn’t an article designed to over hype the 18-year-old. Nor is it one to criticise. It is merely a cautionary article and let me show you why.

Price Tag

£37.2 million. It is a lot of money. It’s similar to how much Donny van de Beek cost. It’s more than Alex Telles was. He must be good right? Well, in youth football, yes. He was a star, but he’s only made five senior appearances for Atalanta, all off the bench. It’s a footballing tale as old as time. In any era, a player with a big price tag will have the same question posed. Can he handle it? 

We don’t really have any proof that he can. Unfortunately for Diallo, he may have fallen foul of work permit rules. As explained by former AC Milan legend Giovanni Galli (Football Italia), “The club need to have valid reasons to take him to the United Kingdom. One reason is that the player is coming from a top team and with Atalanta that have been playing international competitions over the last few years, there are no problems to prove it. The second reason is the price tag. A €40 million signing means he is an important investment for the club. If the cost would be €1 or €2 million (£1-2 million) it may have been more difficult to get the work permit. That being said, €40m (£37.2m) is still a lot of money.”

Frustrations with work permit rules may see a lot more big money young signings, especially with Brexit also coming into force as 2021 begins. Of course, that isn’t Diallo’s fault. Unfortunately though, there will be no asterisk next to his fee saying, ‘yes it was a lot of money, but work permit issues meant it cost a lot more’. Nor will rival fans or pundits allow it to be an excuse. Remember Bebe. He only cost £7 million and is often considered to be one of the worst signings in Premier League history. Even Gabriel Obertan. £3 million. Didn’t happen at United, although in fairness to him, he managed to forge a few years in England with Newcastle and Wigan. 

Maybe a more apt comparison would be Memphis Depay. Now there is a caveat to this comparison. Depay was 21 years old, was already a first teamer at PSV, had top scored in the Eredivisie in a title winning season and had been capped by the Netherlands. All that being said, Depay came at a time where United had suffered two poor seasons since Sir Alex Ferguson had retired. He cost £31 million, not to dissimilar to Diallo and arrived with much fanfare, as has Diallo. However, as we all know, it did not work out. He struggled to adapt to the Premier League in his first season and when Jose Mourinho came in, it was clear he was not fancied by the new manager. He was sold in January to Lyon where he has gone on to be a top player developing into Lyon’s talisman. His move to Manchester United had come too soon. It wasn’t just the fee, or the fan fare. It was the step up, playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world and by his own admission, he only had himself to blame.

Diallo comes to United without the first team experience, but will have to deal with the price tag and the fan fare at being at a club like United, nonetheless.

Lack of first team football 

As touched upon earlier, Diallo has had very little first team football. Atalanta have afforded him just 59 minutes with all appearances coming off the bench. Last season he bagged his first goal and maybe some would have expected far more minutes as we came into the new season. There has been one big difference this season, though. From 14 matchdays this season, Diallo has been on the bench 10 times. Training and being around any first team at a young age will aid his development. Being in a team that is so free flowing will also help. Atalanta scored 98 goals last season. Yes, 98. They’ve only scored 28 goals so far this season, but only three teams in Serie A have more. Gian Piero Gasperini will have been a great coach to learn from. When interviewed by The Guardian last season he gave an insight into his philosophy. 

“To give you an idea I will use a Chinese proverb from 500 BC [from the Art of War]: ‘Defending makes you invincible, but if you want to win, you must attack.’ This sums up the spirit and mentality I want my team to have. But there’s something else that is important too: the identity you create in a team must always be reinforced. You must grow and improve, day by day, because if you do not improve, you are done. Those who stop, they have lost. 

During training, my players need to struggle; those who aren’t used to working hard scare me. But from the struggle, victories are born. If you don’t run in training then you don’t run during the game. Then, of course it is important to have fun in training too because from that comes the style of play and the quality.”

The fact that Diallo will have been around Gasperini a lot during the last year and a half is a positive. You sense that if Diallo didn’t work hard in training, he wouldn’t have got onto the bench this season. Being a winger may have also prevented further first team minutes. Atalanta play five at the back, with wing-backs and attacking midfielders, so it will have been hard for Gasperini to give him too many minutes without changing his system. 

Whatever the reasons, the fact remains the same. Diallo has not played many first team minutes and it would be a huge ask to come to Old Trafford and walk straight into the first team squad.

Manchester United are in a title race

However much some United fans and pundits want to downplay it, United are (at the moment) in a title race. Level on points with Liverpool at the top of the Premier League with goal difference separating them, although United have a game in hand heading into the second half of the season. That is being in a title race. 

Transfers are not often made in January, with fees often inflated. Clubs are usually in desperation mode if signings are made half-way through the season, whether it a team battling relegation and need reinforcements, or as it was last season with United, a top team struggling and need a fix quickly. This time last year, Bruno Fernandes signed for United. Whilst £47 million may have been seen as an expensive signing, it now looks to be an absolute steal and one of United’s best signings in many windows. However, that type of signing being that successful is very much the exception rather than the rule. United have been rumoured to make signings this January. Whether any signings can be made to push on in the title race remains to be seen. Players such as Max Aarons from Norwich (The Sun) and Moises Caicedo from Independiente (Daily Mail) have been heavily linked. However, they are players who are believed to be able to come into the squad and do a job now. 

Realistically, are United going to give time to Diallo in important Premier League games? No. Fa Cup if they drew a lower league side? Maybe. Europe League? Much better chance. Nonetheless, it is far more likely that Diallo will follow the Facundo Pellistri route.

The Facundo Pellistri Model 

On the same day that United announced that Diallo would be joining in January, they also announced another young signing. Another winger in fact. Uruguayan, Facundo Pellistri. 

It might be wise for us to use Pellistri as a model for Diallo. Both signings were announced on the same day, however, Pellistri made the move immediately to United on the 5 October 2020 for a far modest £10 million (Daily Mail). He was recommended by former United striker, Diego Forlan and so far, he has managed to make it onto two Champions League benches but has begun his United career in the under 23’s.

After a steady start, he has started to impress and over the Christmas break he trained with the first team squad (Daily Mail) so that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could take a look at him. With the FA Cup game against Watford looming in the middle of a tough run of games, United may be about to catch a first glimpse of the youngster in the senior team. That has taken five months to materialise. Pellistri had already made 37 senior appearances from Penarol, so he has that over Diallo as well. 

Even though Pellistri joined in October, he has still only made eight under 23 appearances. He has three goals and an assist in that time but making the step up to the first team will see a far bigger increase in intensity. Despite Diallo frequenting the bench so often this season, 35 minutes of football is all he has seen. He will need minutes to get up to full match sharpness. Again, this isn’t going to happen in the first team. He will need a few months in the under 23’s to gain fitness as well as to acclimatise himself to Manchester, just like his fellow winger has. 

Wing rivals at the club already

As I was talking about Pellistri, it struck me that whilst United will likely follow his pathway into the club, they will be rivals for the same positions. Then it struck me even more that whilst Pellistri and Diallo have cost a combined £47 million, there are other wingers already at the club fighting for the same positions. 

Tahith Chong has probably been forgotten about due to these signings, but the Dutchmen featured in the first team last season and his loan move to Werder Bremen was anticipated to kickstart his career and ready him for more first team action on his return. He started with a goal in a cup game on his debut but having to self-isolate after coming into contact with a teammate with COVID hasn’t helped him settle. He has been afforded just three starts and eight substitute appearances but has yet to contribute a goal or assist in those game. The Werder Bremen head of football, Clemens Fritz, has urged for patience (Manchester Evening News) with Chong, so United will be hoping an improved second half of the season will see him ready for the first team next season. They are obviously high on him after he signed a contract extension last season. 

Shola Shoretire is an interesting proposition. The club are very high on him and rightly so. At just 15 years of age, he made his debut for the under 18’s. The season after he made 18 appearances and this season, he has already made the jump to the under 23’s. He is still one month short of his 17th birthday. In ten appearances, he has made nine starts, highlighting his importance to the side already. Neil Wood, the under 23 manager, recently raved about him. If he continues his rate of progression, the first team won’t be too far away.

Then there is Anthony Elanga, who has impressed regularly for the under 23’s after his promotion from the under 18’s. Still only 18 himself, he scored seven goals and laid on three assists for the under 18’s last season and in only nine games. 11 league games have seen four goals and two assists for the under 23’s as well as scoring two goals and getting an assist in the Papa John’s Trophy. Playing well against senior players, albeit in lower leagues, suggests that Elanga has something about him as does the 60-yard solo goal he scored a few weeks back. Gary Neville recently called him a “nightmare to play against” and also likened him to Arsenal legend, Thierry Henry. High praise indeed. 

These three players, along with Pellistri, show that Amad Diallo, despite the price tag, won’t find it that easy to make the under 23 side, let alone the first team. Of course, the issues I’ve mentioned before may not mean anything.

Diallo is likely to play under 23 football before the first team. however, he might rip that league up. Solskjaer may believe that he’s that extra piece that can fire United to a league title. He might take to the Premier League like a duck to water. He has been described as a generational talent after all. So, why not? 

Written by Huw Rawlings

copyright: JW