If you are wondering just why Hoffenheim Director of Football Alexander Rosen has such a big reputation and standing in German football, you only have to look at his latest piece of business to discover why.
Hoffenheim’s signing of Malian midfielder Diadie Samassékou from Red Bull Salzburg is just the latest transfer that shows his genius. The 23-year-old is arguably the best central defensive midfielder outside of the top 5 European leagues and was being tracked by a host of top clubs.
Hoffenheim have snagged him for €14 million, which could turn out to be the best Bundesliga transfer of the summer. Why? Read on.
Because he hasn’t been playing in one of Europe’s “top” leagues the midfielder is not a household name, but his performances in the ‘other’ Bundesliga over in Austria have seen him emerge as a real talent with clubs like Paris St Germain, Roma, and Borussia Dortmund previously linked with him.
Samassékou is a product of the JMG Academy in the Malian capital Bamako, and he started out playing for Real Bamako in 2015 before making the move to Europe joining FC Liefering in the Austrian Erste Liga. After just one season he was spotted by Red Bull and signed for the Salzburg giants.
Over the past three seasons, he has developed from the box-to-box midfielder we saw as he helped Mali to third place at the U-20 World Cup in 2015, into a deep-lying defensive midfielder of real quality.
Listing his prime strengths is like listing what you want in the perfect DM- positioning, intercepting the ball, tackling and passing. It is genuinely difficult to pinpoint a weakness.
Last season at Salzburg he made 26 appearances, scoring once and providing two assists. He averaged 79.4 touches per 90 minutes and won 80.9% of his tackles. He won 58% of his total duels, which rises to 63.7% when you focus solely on ground duels. He is well disciplined and only picked up 6 yellow cards, which for his position and playing style is impressive.
He is highly skilled at winning the ball back, either in his own half, or the opposition’s averaging 2.7 interceptions per 90 minutes.
His passing is also a major area of strength. Samassékou is skilled at playing the simple pass between the lines, and is adept at receiving the ball, resetting his feet and body shape, before the most simple and effectively pass to a team mate. His pass accuracy last season was 86% and he has the ability to play the longer pass with accuracy (65%).
You will often see him dropping back to demand the ball from the centre backs, while it is just a small likely that he will be harrying and closing down opponents in their own half.
He grew up idolising Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta and while they differ in playing styles, Samassékou really does already look the real deal in his position. With Hoffenheim picking him up for just €14 million, you’d have to stay he’s a real steal.
Alexander Rosen take a bow. Hoffenheim fans- prepare to be impressed.
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