Adama Diakhaby: Replacing the Irreplaceable at Rennes
I’ve been asked a couple of times this summer who the next Ousmane Dembele might be. To answer that is very difficult as it’s easy to forget that the former flying Rennes forward has only been playing professional football for ten months. Unearthing an heir apparent after that short a space of time would take some doing!
Benefitting from one of the stronger academies in France and with Dembele still fresh in the memory banks, Rennes seem an obvious place to begin investigations. Whilst big on reputation, La Piverdiere, the Rennes academy, had gone through a couple of lean years prior to the emergence of Dembele. The club is still riding high on the success of the now Dortmund winger, although rumours of just how much the deal was actually worth still rumble on. “La Piv”, as it is affectionately known, is therefore once again back in the spotlight.
Over the last 12 months there have been a glut of young players who have signed professional contracts with the club. These include defender Joris Gnagnon, French under-19 European Champions Jeremy Gelin and Denis Will-Poha and French under-18 midfielder Nicolas Janvier. It is however to Adama Diakhaby that we look to possibly emerge as the brightest prospect this season.
First things first, I’ll admit that Rennes have cheated a little when it comes to Diakhaby as the player was actually poached from Caen last November. However I like to think that it is with Rennes that he will be provided that finishing touch to transform him from a potential rough diamond. Initially playing in the Rennes “C” team, the 20 year old forward was eventually called up to the CFA2 side by coach Julian Stephan during the run-in of their successful season.
During those games and the subsequent pre-season training matches, new Rennes head coach Christian Gourcuff obviously saw something in Diakhaby as the youngster was called into the senior squad for the first game of the season away to Nice. He was handed a 20 minute run out midway through the second half and although only given a relatively brief cameo, Diakhaby looked the most dangerous player for Rennes. He was full of energy, full of pace and provided the side with that no fear attitude that so many of their players seem to miss. There was no shortage of confidence either as in that short spell he mustered four shots, more than any other player on the pitch bar one.
At a little over 6 foot and with a gangly frame, Diakhaby can look awkward as he takes his place on the pitch but with the ability to make intelligent runs and appearing very comfortable with the ball at his feet, he is clearly a player with significant potential.
That potential looked even more clear after the draw away to Montpellier in week three. With Rennes a goal behind and bereft of any attacking threat, Gourcuff Senior turned once again to the young Diakhaby early in the second half. Ten minutes after coming on as a substitute, he made another excellent run off the last Montpellier defender and was found thanks to a wonderful through-ball from Benjamin Andre. Running in on goal, Diakhaby showed great composure in netting his first goal through the legs of Geoffrey Jourdren. In his 40 minute appearance, Diakhaby had twice as many shots as anyone else on the pitch and scored a game-saving goal for Rennes. The last player to score a goal so early into their professional career for the club? A certain Ousmane Dembele.
No-one of course is getting carried away with his performances as there is still clearly a lot of work and development for Diakhaby to achieve. However with only an hour of professional football under his belt, Diakhaby has at least given the long-suffering Rennes fans a glimmer of hope for the future.