Player Focus – Baba Rahman

baba RahmanOver the past two decades, world-class and quality African players have emerged on the European scene such as Samuel Eto’o, Jay-Jay Okocha and Abedi Pele, as well as his sons Andre and Jordan Ayew. Abedi, who comes from Ghana, is widely regarded as the pioneer of African football and was one of the first footballers from the continent of Africa who really put his mark in Europe and European footballing history, being one of the most important players in Marseille’s Champions League triumph in 1993. A decade later another African took the world by storm, this time of Nigerian decent, in the form of Jay-Jay Okocha. The silky skiller mesmerised fans all over the club with his dribbling and flamboyant movement, and was brought in by PSG for a record fee of £14m, making him the most expensive African player of all time, to mentor a certain up and coming Brazilian skiller, Ronaldinho. The newest African player set to burst into the European spotlight is Abdul Baba Rahman, who’s recently just joined Premier League champions Chelsea from Bundesliga side Augsburg for an initial fee of £14m, potentially rising to £21m. Should that fee be paid, it would make him the most expensive African defender of all time, surpassing Chris Samba who moved from Anzhi Makhachkala to London club Queens Park Rangers for £12m back in 2012. Now the question on pretty much everyone’s tongue, including my own, who is Abdul Baba Rahman?

Rahman was born on the 2nd of July 1994 in Tamale, a city in the Northern region of Ghana. He started playing football at a young age, joining Dreams FC, a Ghanian club in the second division and played in various positions for Dreams, such as all across the left flank, as well as sometimes being deployed in midfield although this was a rarity as he played best out wide on the left. after a fruitful spell at Dreams FC, he then went to Ghanian Premier League side Asante Kotoko SC on a one year-long loan basis in 2011, he made 25 appearances for the top-tier side and consistently played well and was shortlisted for the Discovery of the Year 2012, which is awarded to the young player who’s emerged on the scene, although Abdul lost out on the award to Joshua Oniku. Following this, the left back was subject to serious interest from Premier League sides Manchester City and Arsenal as well as Serie A’s Parma throughout the 2012 summer transfer window but ended up signing for newly promoted Bundesliga side SpVgg Greuther Fürth. In 2012/13 he made 20 appearances for Greuther but couldn’t prevent them from getting relegated from Germany’s top flight and although was linked again with top European sides however no deal for the Ghanaian materialised so he spent a season in 2. Bundesliga, although he only made 11 appearances but on the 11th of August scored his first two goals for the club, in a derby game against 1. FC Nuremberg, but left the club for Augsburg a day after. In his sole season at the club, he helped them achieve their highest Bundesliga finish ever, finishing in 5th. This meant they qualified for European competition for the first time in the club’s history. Following his excellent performances, he was linked with a host of different European clubs, but Chelsea won the race for the Ghanaian international, who has 13 caps to his name.

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infographic showing Rahman’s statistics from the Bundesliga.

Rahman is an attack minded full-back and is Chelsea’s first proper high-flying left back since former England international Ashley Cole’s departure to Roma in 2014. It is slightly strange that Mourinho has opted for Abdul, as it seems he likes his left back to be tucked in and not go forward much at all, as we saw with Azpilicueta. Chelsea already had a fairly good attacking left back in Filipe Luis, so it’s strange that they let the Brazilian go back to Atleti and bringing in Rahman. Nevertheless, The former Augsburg is more than a good enough player to challenge the Spaniard for the left back spot, or even make Jose revert Azpi back to a right back and have Rahman as Chelsea’s starting left back. The strengths in Baba’s play is he’s very good at tackling and interceptions, although attack minded, he doesn’t abandon his defensive duties as he made on average 3.5 tackles and 2.7 interceptions a game last season, as well as 2.8 clearances a game. Another strength Baba possesses is winning aerial duels due to his dominating stature. Offensively Rahman is quite good as even though he did not score last term in the Bundesliga, he did register 4 assists in the league while making 0.8 key passes a game and 1.5 successful dribbles a game. There are a few notable weaknesses in his game however is his passing, as he had a rather disappointing 68.8% passing success rate and in a Jose Mourinho team, bad passing range and ability will immediately put you in the Portuguese’s bad books.

ABR

Infographic showing that Rahman made the most tackles in the Bundesliga.

Overall, I think Baba Rahman is a good investment for Chelsea and should he continue how he left off in the Bundesliga, he should have a long and successful career in West London at Stamford Bridge, much like Rahman’s fellow countryman and former Chelsea midfielder, Michael Essien.

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