We are reaching the end of this season and, inevitably, teams around Europe and worldwide are preparing themselves for the summer transfer window. The focus for many will be on exciting prospects and young talents from around the globe. Here is a list of 13 talented African footballers who are going to be high on […]
#GenerationNext is our regular feature on Just Football bringing you scouting profiles and reports on the next generation of top young talent in world football. After our recent profile of Ajax starlet Justin Kluivert we head to France now to look at the Senegalese wonderkid making waves…
Ligue 1 has a tendency to find hidden gems from African nations, turning them into recognised household names. Sadio Mane, Serge Aurier, Emmanuel Adebayor and Vincent Enyeama are just a small selection of players who have benefited from playing in France.
It now appears that another African talent is taking Ligue 1 by storm, with a move to a high-profile club perhaps inevitable. Ismaila Sarr has made a big impression on the Metz team, scoring spectacular goals to pull his side clear from the relegation dogfight. Metz have a tendency to develop Senegalese talents, with Papiss Cisse, Diafra Sakho and Sadio Mane all spending the early stages of their careers at the club.
Name: Ismaila Sarr
Date of Birth: February 25th 1998
Position: Right / Left wing
Club: FC Metz
Who is Ismaila Sarr?
Ismaila Sarr progressed through the Generation Foot academy in his homeland, learning his skills at a young age before being signed by FC Metz on a five-year deal in July 2016. This journey is an identical path to that of Sadio Mane, now plying his trade at Liverpool.
A natural wide player, Sarr has caught the eye this season. His performances led to Sarr becoming a pivotal figure for Les Grenats and a call-up to the Senegal squad for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations aged just 18.
The 19-year-old is a fearless player, capable of using his natural speed and mobility to counter attack. Powerful on the ball, Sarr is tough to dispossess as he has the strength at a young age to hold off defenders, maintaining excellent balance when running with the ball at pace.
Moreover, the winger has made a habit of scoring special individual goals this season, with two strikes in particular standing out against Nancy and Caen respectively. The first saw Sarr take the ball deep inside his own half and beat numerous defenders before applying a composed finish.
It impressed his manager, Philippe Hinschberger:
“He’s a player capable of extraordinary breaks. On that goal, he underlined that he can take advantage of his placement to gain possession in a good area and make his speed count.”
The goal against Caen displayed the acrobatic skills of the winger, thinking quickly to provide an instinctive finish on the volley.
Both these goals came against relegation rivals, highlighting the ability of Sarr to influence crucial fixtures and not be fazed by pressure.
It appears that the call-up to the 2017 AFCON tournament lifted the young star’s confidence and Metz have felt the benefits of this in the closing stages of this season, with the winger scoring four goals in 10 games:
“Ismaïla is really on form. I don’t know if it’s because of the Nations Cup, but he’s been superb since he came back. He’s been sharp in training, he’s got a great touch and when he gets to stretch his legs it’s hard to catch him.”
Ismaila Sarr resembles a similar playing style to Sadio Mane, a player Sarr looks up to having shared a similar journey at the start of his career. Capable of making diagonal runs in behind defence, the winger is also comfortable running with the ball at his feet.
Preferring to play wide on the left, Sarr can use his natural right foot to cut inside and shoot from outside the area. This tactic gave Paris Saint-Germain numerous problems last month, with Sarr coming on from the bench to change the flow of the game. After 31 league games this season he has five goals and five assists, an encouraging amount for a young player in a new club and continent.
He still has areas to work on, though. He needs better decision making on the ball, but this should come as he gets more mature. In addition, playing out wide requires Sarr to track back and help out defensively. At times the winger has lost concentration and allowed the opposing full-back to get forward and swing crosses into the area.
In the future, Sarr could move into a central role. Standing at 1.85 metres, he’s still growing and has the potential to combine his raw pace with power. This potential positional move could make sense. It would prevent Sarr from having to do too much tracking back and use his pace to greater effect. The calmness shown in front of goal highlights the natural confidence Sarr has when presented with a chance, a rare quality for one so young.
What next for Ismaila Sarr?
Sarr is attracting attention from a number of clubs across the continent, with a summer move a great possibility. Metz lack the financial power to resist, and the Ligue 1 club will always struggle to turn down sizeable bids.
Although Sarr still remains a raw prospect, it is clear he has the talent to change a game. Expect the winger to significantly add to his six international caps in the future. Ironically, he could ultimately replace Sadio Mane as Senegal’s new talismanic figure.
— FC Metz ☨ (@FCMetz) May 8, 2017
Ligue 1 has proven a happy hunting ground for clubs across Europe in recent years. Ismaila Sarr might not be as well known compared to young Ligue 1 talents like Kylian Mbappé, Bernardo Silva, Corentin Tolisso and Adrien Rabiot. However, he could well be joining this high-profile group in moving on to pastures new this summer.