FEATURE | Amadou Diawara: Africa’s Unsung Gem

From playing at his local church in Guinea to becoming one of Europe’s most in demand midfielders, Amadou Diawara’s story has an air of Hollywood about it.

“When you see him on the pitch he looks like he is playing in the garden of his own house.”

Much like the fictional character Santiago Muñez of the movie Goal, Diawara had parents who didn’t want to hear anything about football. Born in Conakry, Guinea, his father and late mother were both teachers and his siblings pursued studies in pharmacology, medicine and economics. The young male of the family was expected to follow suit.

However, he couldn’t get himself to stop playing. He would often shower at a friend’s house after training so that his parents never found out that he’d spent much of his day kicking a ball around.

Although the 23-year-old didn’t grow up poor, his journey to Europe happened much like that of Muñez. At the age of 16, after being slapped in the face by his father after confessing his dream to play professionally, Diawara was scouted by Roberto Visan, who had visited Conakry and was instantly impressed by the then teenager.

He joined San Marino Calcio, a team based in the country of San Marino that played in the Italian Serie C after excelling at a trial. 

Diawara at San Marino

After just 15 domineering appearances in Italy’s third division, Corvino ordered purchase of the teenage sensation be completed for an estimated €420,000 in July of 2015.

He made his Serie A debut in the beginning of the season, aged just 18.  

Once in Bologna, Diawara proved to be a crucial cog in the Rossoblù and although he didn’t necessarily fit the archetypal bustling and strong African midfielder, his technical ability was second to none.

Making crucial interceptions and reading the game with expert intelligence as a deeper line midfielder, at the tender age of 19, he helped the Serie A side finish 14th in the 2015/16 campaign, after making 35 appearances (31 starts).  

Diawara at Bologna during the 2015/16 season

Just two years ago he was playing in Guinea with FC Séquence de Dixinn. 

In a debut campaign where he played with maturity well beyond his years, it’s no surprise that Europe’s elite were keen on him, which included the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City, Juventus and Bayern Munich.

Lamberto Zauli, an ex-midfielder of the Northern Italian outfit, said this about the Guinean international: “He is 18, but when you see him on the pitch he looks like he is playing in the garden of his own house. If he keeps improving, he is destined to become a top player.”

Napoli snatched the youngster after his debut season in Serie A for around €13m. In Naples he continued to flourish. 

Emulating his idol, Yaya Toure, Diawara chose 42 as his shirt number. By the time he was 20, Mauricio Sarri played him interchangeably with Jorginho in fulcrum of his midfield.

In a season where he continued to boost his profile as calm head in squad filled with undoubted quality, his seminal moment came against Manchester City in a UEFA Champions League group stages.

Although Gli Azzurri lost 2-1 to the Citizens at the Etihad, he took the responsibility of scoring the penalty in the second half to half the deficit. Unfazed by the stage and willing to take responsibility, by the time Jorginho left for Chelsea in the summer of 2018, he became the undoubted first choice at the Stadio San Paolo.

After three years in Naples he moved to AS Roma for €19m.

Ancellotti, AS Roma and his bright future

In an interview he did on AS Roma’s official website, Diawara revealed the main reason why he left Naples to join the Italian capital of Rome.

“When Carlo Ancelotti took over, I didn’t know if I’d stay at Napoli, but he called me to say that I was in his plans. It didn’t quite pan out that way in the end. He’s a great man, but it didn’t work out that well between us,” he told asroma.com.

After making a move to the Stadio Olimpico in the summer of 2019, Roma manager, Paulo Fonseca, has relied on him as the starting point for their possession-based playing style, and the Guinean has had nothing but praise for how he’s been treated at his new club, but seems to have revealed to his current employers that the three-time Scudetto winners could just be a stepping stone.

Diawara shielding off Gareth Bale in the UEFA Champions League with Napoli.

“He’s (Fonseca) an excellent coach, who’s quite similar to Sarri. He always wants us to bring the ball out at our feet and make good use of our midfielders, which is something I very much like. This new adventure is another step forward in my career and I have to make the most of it.”

Despite the Italian giants finishing the season outside the UEFA Champions League places in fifth and being knocked out the quarter-final stage of the Europa League against Sevilla last week, the Conakry-born man has been nothing short of outstanding, according to his stats on biENsport.com.

Below are statistics of AS Roma midfielders in comparison to Diawara.

 

Players (Bottom)

(2019/2020)

Tackles Won % Interceptions Duels Won% Passing Accuracy  %
Amadou Diawara 62.5% 33 55.6% 88.9%
Lorenzo Pellegrini 43.3% 15 45.2% 81.2%
Bryan Cristante 60% 22 39.2% 85.2%
Jordan Veretout 50% 18 48.6% 89.7%

Click Here to find all the statistics regarding Serie A.

Now that he’s been linked with the likes of Arsenal and newly promoted Leeds United over last few weeks, one of Italy’s standout players could be set for his biggest move yet and judging by the progression of his career, don’t be surprised if we see him competing at the very top of European football.

 

Sources:

ESPN FC

footballwhispers.com

biENsport.com

asroma.com