Transfers You May Have Missed – Part II
Another piece in our transfer re-cap series. This time, Phil Costa picks out a move made by Southampton and Stephen Ganavas focuses on a loan deal between two Serie A clubs.
IBRAHIMA DIALLO (1999)
Move: Stade Brestois 29 to Southampton
Deal: €15 million, with 15% sell-on clause
After a difficult two-year spell appointing the wrong coaches and making surprisingly poor transfer deals, Southampton look like their intelligent selves again. The club have recruited well with Ralph Häsenhuttl, doing some impressive business with Mohamed Salisu and Kyle Walker-Peters arriving this summer. They managed to get another exciting deal over the line late on too – the addition of Ibrahima Diallo from Stade Brestois.
Diallo was a standout performer for the Breton club last season. The 21-year-old is most comfortable at the base of midfield but afforded positional freedom, biting into challenges and driving forward with valuable ball-carrying ability. Five matches are too small a sample size to make conclusions, but before joining Southampton, Diallo was averaging 3.3 tackles per 90 minutes in Ligue 1 – placing him among the most prolific tackles league wide.
His passing is unadventurous yet assured, although he has shown a consistency for defence-splitting through balls in transition. Diallo is also light on his feet, covers ground emphatically but an underrated part of his game is how smoothly he evades pressure. The midfielder, alongside Haris Belkebla, would typically drop and receive the ball from his goalkeeper or central defenders. Without turning, a quick swivel or smart touch would escape the clutches of a pressing opponent, leaving him central space to then exploit.
For Southampton, their thought process behind this deal seems clear. Following the departure of Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and with Oriol Romeu struggling physically on occasion, Diallo represents the best of both players. He is yet to appear for the side but slots naturally into their regular shape – which is what Brest played much of last term. The France youth international is well-suited to pressing thanks to his energy and combative edge, which will suit Häsenhuttl, but remains positionally disciplined to avoid leaving team-mates exposed.
Both on a traditional and more analytical level, Diallo ticks plenty of boxes. He's physically impressive, assured in possession and continues to show a capacity for improvement. His inexperience remains a valid concern but conversely, those concerns are balanced out by some extremely promising core attributes that can later be refined. Much like Salisu, Southampton can afford to ease him into regular football with a gruelling schedule to naviagte in the coming months. But make no mistake: Diallo has the ability and could blossom into a really accomplished Premier League midfielder.
GIANLUCA SCAMACCA (1999)
Move: US Sassuolo to CFC Genoa
Deal: Season-long loan
There's a reason why people have been keeping tabs on Gianluca Scamacca for a while. There are striking similarities to a young Zlatan Ibrahimović, especially as he can do things like this:
He has quick footwork and elite physical attributes wrapped up in a 6’5” package – he's a bit of a monster. But the 21-year-old has bumped around clubs for a while since leaving AS Roma for PSV Eindhoven as a 16-year-old. He returned to Italy with Sassuolo, before embarking on a series of unsuccessful loans with Cremonese in Serie B and PEC Zwolle in the Eredivisie. That was until last year, when his prolific form for Italy at various youth levels finally translated to 13 goals in just under 2,500 minutes with Ascoli in Serie B and the Coppa Italia.
But now the fun really starts. Desperate to renew their attack this season after narrowly avoiding relegation, Genoa have brought in a whole host of strikers, including Scamacca on yet another loan. Genoa now have about five players competing for two or three positions up front in their 3-4-1-2 or 3-5-2: Scamacca, Mattia Destro, Eldor Shomurodov, Goran Pandev and Marko Pjaca, with the latter two capable of functioning behind the strikers. Scamacca will certainly get his fair share of opportunities.
As he showed in Serie B last season, the 21-year-old is at least physically ready for the rigours of senior football. Now he needs to go a step further and prove he can put a fairly poor Genoa team on his back and win some games for them through his own sheer will. Now almost 22, the striker should really be starting to assert himself on top-level centre-backs. With a bit more time spent in the gym, he could be doing what Dominic Calvert-Lewin is doing to Premier League defenders.
He has all the talent to take advantage of his physical gifts too. Scamacca is especially effective holding the ball up with his back to goal then linking with runners to craft attacks, which would work well playing alongside Pandev and/or Pjaca. Scamacca also possesses an extremely powerful right-footed strike, tidy close control and is superb in the air – both in winning the ball and directing it on goal.
But it’s the deft touches and agile movements that set him apart from other strikers of his size and makes him such an interesting profile. Here's to a successful first season in Serie A.