When he stood at the back of the team photo when Leeds decamped from the bus in Ireland for their tour this summer gone, fans were left wondering about the guy with the snazzy hair lurking at the back.
That snazzy hair turned out to belong to one Hadi Sacko, another ‘no-name’ import as some fans thought from Portuguese top-tier side Sporting Lisbon. The thing is, he’s a bit good is the young Frenchman, and a bit frustrating at the same time time.
The 22-year-old right-sided attacking midfielder has that sense of joie de vivre that fearless youngsters play with when they are on the local rec. A style of play that is bold and brave, a style of play where expression is everything because nothing is at stake only local bragging rights and dented egos. Sacko plays with this kind of fearless atitude at times, not being afraid to run at and take a man on.
Vivacity – that’s what it is.
In a recent article for the Yorkshire Evening Post (YEP), and a very good one at that, the YEP’s Phil Hay hits the nail squarely on the head by calling it as it is; youngster Sacko has that magic quality of vivacity – youthfully exhuberant drive. Hay says that he has it in spades, that it was what turned French Under-16 selector’s heads when they selected him for the prestigious Tournoi de Montaigu in 2010.
Whilst, as Hay points out, the bulk of the squad was comprised of players from French footballing “powerhouses” such as Paris Saint Germain, Lyon et al, but there was Sacko on, merit of his vivacity, from little-known club Brétigny. It is this intangible that Sacko has that Hay points out elevates the fact that he is at Leeds above anything resembling a chance encounter.
Hay says that: “Bordeaux, his first professional side, did not randomly stumble across him. Sacko was being heavily scouted when he joined as a youth-team player that year. It was not by chance that he rolled up at Sporting Lisbon with a six-year contract and a 60 million Euro buy-out clause in 2014,” before continuing by saying that Leeds aren’t taking a wild lunge at the fact that Sacko might perform.
As he told French publication Le Parisien on his call up to the Under-16 squad for the Tournoi de Montaigu in 2010, he had no fear and this translates to his overall game and style of play. On this call up he said, when questioned about the players from more prestigious French teams surrounding him: “They are players like me. And if I am here, it’s not by chance.”
His French national coach at the time, Patrice Deroin, said that it was his ability to drive past players at will that was one of the key points of his skill set. On this Deroin said: “He is able to clear a plyer in any position. He has an interesting vivacity. But there is still a lot of work to do. There are many players of his talent, but I see few make the top.”
That much is true, very few make it, and that missive applies to Sacko. From Bordeaux, to Le Havre on loan, to Sporting Lisbon B and FC Sochaux on loan, Sacko clearly hasn’t made that breakthrough yet. Still, he has promise to the degree that has encouraged Sporting to sign him and insert a €60m release clause into his contract. That’s silly money, Sacko isn’t obviously worth that much and that astronomical amount is more of a security for Sporting than a reality for teams wanting to purchase the exciting French youngster.
As Hay points out, it is this free-flowing abandon and vivacity that makes the youngster such a proposition worth taking on for Leeds United; he certainly adds a vibrant attacking outlet to the Leeds United side at this moment. As former United manager Neil Redfearn said in a recent interview, Sacko gets Leeds on the front foot and puts the opposition on the back foot. Evidence of this could be seen in how he destroyed Sheffield Wednesday left back Daniel Pudil in a 2-0 win at Hillsborough and the second half performance vs Blackburn Rovers at Elland Road.
Hadi Sacko – 2016/17 stats for Leeds United
- Appearances/Minutes: 9(2) appearances/773 minutes
- Goals: 1
- Assists: 2
- Shots/On Target: 19/4
- Dribbles/Successful: 52/32
- Passes (per 90): 23.5 (22.5 short/1 long)
- Passing Accuracy: 77.6%
- Tackles/Successful: 24/15
- Interceptions: 3
- Blocks: 7
Stats derived from Hadi Sacko player profile page on WhoScored.com
Worth €60m, not a chance. But worth a dabble, yes please.[interaction id=”5801fdbb605e06ce17800b21″]