Summer 2018: Transfers You May Have Missed, Part 2
Stewart Brown returns with another piece which picks out the most obscure transfers of the past year, namely a centre-back to Greece and a full-back to the team run by Gheorghe Hagi. Enjoy!
Pape Abou Cisse
• 22 years old
• AC Ajaccio to Olympiacos Piraeus
• €700,000 fee
Burnley fans will still be reeling from their Europa League exit at the hands of Olympiacos, but it may be hard to fathom that one of the best players was only used as a 94th-minute substitute late in the second leg.
Pape Abou Cissé, a Senegal under-20 international, graduated from the AS Pikine academy in his homeland before following a well-trodden path to France, in particular to play in Ligue 2 for AC Ajaccio. Cissé was an instant starter for the Corsican club, making 74 appearances and attracting interest from the perennial Greek giants Olympiacos, among others. Cissé would sign a pre-contract agreement with the Athens-based club, but it would take him a while before he broke into the side: he didn't make his debut until October 2017, but he kept his place in every league game from then until January.
At 22 years old, Cissé absolutely tore the league apart, arguably operating as the best centre-back in Greece's Superleague during that period. However, things then took a left turn. SL Benfica held a strong interest in the Senegalese, readying a reported bid of €6 million, but Olympiacos turned down any advances, claiming they'd get double that amount in the ensuing summer. From the end of January to the end of the season, he played four league games – one can only surmise as to what's gone wrong.
Whilst we only have 17 league appearances to work off, Cissé looks every bit an elite prospect. Firstly, he's a physical freak: standing at six-foot, five-inches tall, he uses that to his advantage. Fast, strong, positionally competent and he can dominate in the air. As alluded to, he's very rarely caught out positionally. Passes played into the channels are useless against Cissé, as he'll simply stride over and take care of it in no time at all. His prowess as an attacking force is pronounced too: he played 17 league games and scored four goals. Cissé is a considerable weapon at set-pieces.
His lanky frame allows him to use his lower body to control attackers rather than out-muscling them; he doesn't need to be close to dominate. Cissé has an uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time – call it great positioning, call it sensing danger, whatever. He's that guy coming from the other side of the play to clear it off the line, whilst half the crowd are ready to celebrate. His only real flaw, at the moment, is his passing – it's erratic. Adept with both feet, he's supremely confident to receive the ball in difficult areas and he can be a real source of build-up play, but errors seem to occur when playing across himself, even without pressure. Sich mishaps leads to goalscoring opportunities, but once he sees the full picture, those mistakes will be eradicated from his game.
See the hype around Yerry Mina? That's how I feel about Pape Abou Cissé. I think he could be special in most systems and, once Olympiacos restore him to their line-up, I have no doubt that they will double Benfica's bid that they're holding out for.
Bradley de Nooijer
• 19 years old
• FC Dordrecht to FC Viitorul Constanța
• Free transfer
After spending time at Sparta Rotterdam's prestigious academy between 2013 and 2015, Bradley de Nooijer joined FC Dordrecht – the club that his father, Gérard, spent the last years of his career.
Then still in his late teens, Bradley established himself in the Eerste Divisie, the Dutch second division, right away, playing over 3,000 minutes of league football before earning a move to FC Viitorul Constanța in Romania's Liga I.
Predominantly a left-back, De Nooijer looks natural at, well, most things. He's not a hell for leather speedy wing-back who isn't in the same postcode as the other defenders, nor is he a full-back that tucks in to form a three-man central defence. He's dependably efficient at both. A terrific presser, he forces wingers down dark alleys and lets his above average physique do the rest. Going forward, his best actions are using either the winger or central midfielder in combination passes. Quick, incisive passing takes Viitorul up the field on most occasions. His best value is being used to build-up play rather than a more wing-back type role where he's the main creator.
There aren't any large gaps in his skillset as it stands. But, to keep on improving at the level he has so far, you'd like to see continued improvement in the final third. Just three assists last season, and none so far this year, uncovers an inefficency. You'd like to see that on the up. Defensively, he's sometimes prone to looking in at the action. He needs to be wary of what will happen, rather than focusing on what is happening. A little work on concentration will eradicate what isn't even a big problem, but may become one as he moves through the levels.
De Nooijer has a brilliant foundation upon which he can build his career. Commencing just his third season of professional football, he already looks ready to take the next step in his career. In my opinion, the best place for that next step is likely back home in Eredivisie, but any top-flight team using a four-man defence is a good spot for the Dutchman. PSV Eindhoven's acquisition of Denzel Dumfries is the type of move we'll see De Nooijer linked with in time. He's ready for the next step.
You can follow Stewart on Twitter at footballstewart. Go follow him for more stuff like this.
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