Jadon Sancho remains a pipe-dream for now, but Manchester United fans now have a different winger on whom to pin their hopes in Atalanta’s Amad Diallo.
United’s desire to get a deal done for Diallo was partly motivated by new criteria being drafted up for Premier League clubs to sign 18 to 21-year-old foreign talent post-Brexit.
Under the UK’s European Union membership, clubs could sign a scholar or professional with an EU passport over the age of 16.
The UK left the EU via the withdrawal agreement on January 31, however, it still follows European Union rules as part of the transition period, which ends on January 31, 2021.
Here is a closer look at what the 18-year-old will offer Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side when he joins the club in January.
Diallo moved to Atalanta’s revered youth academy in 2015. There, he starred at various different age levels before earning his Serie A debut in October 2019.
Despite only being on the field for four minutes, Diallo struck his first goal, becoming the first player born in 2002 to score in Serie A.
A rapid ascension into the Atalanta starting XI has not been forthcoming, however, with Diallo limited to two further late cameos in Serie A games; against Juventus in November and Parma in January.
This season, Diallo has been an unused substitute in each of the club’s three Serie A matches, although Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini can hardly be criticised for leaving the winger out: his side have won all three games, scoring 13 goals in the process.
Last season, Diallo made impressive strides for Atalanta’s Under-19s, scoring seven goals and notching four assists, according to Wyscout’s records.
While that is a couple of levels lower than the first-team, there is clearly a considerable amount of talent for the United academy staff to work with.
The feeling is, that while Diallo is not at Sancho’s level yet, with effective guidance he can follow the same path as the England international over next two or three years.
Like the Dortmund ace, Diallo prefers to play on the right, but unlike the England international, he is stronger on his left foot, as evidenced by his goal against Udinese, as he surged forward before firing a left-footed effort into the near corner from the edge of the box.
While naturally a winger, Diallo has shown a willingness to drift infield to find space while playing for Atalanta’s youth teams. That is a trait that shows he is learning at an impressive rate, but he still has much to learn before making it at an elite level.
As with many precocious young wingers, Diallo is sometimes guilty of putting his head down and running with the ball.
On occasion, he has been known to lose possession with teammates in space. While his dribbling ability often allows him to ghost past defenders, decision-making and knowing when to pick his head up and find a pass will be crucial to his development.
All that will come with the coaching he will receive at Carrington, however. For now, he is a hugely exciting prospect and a player United can possibly look forward to seeing in the first-team in the not-too-distant future.
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Should they land him and Penarol’s highly-rated winger Facundo Pellistri, it would constitute an enormous boost to the club’s academy.
United’s first-team requires significant work, of course, but there is never any harm in building towards the future.
The Reds are often accused of being short-sighted and scattergun in their approach to transfers. Diallo, however, is proof of a more long-term approach.