There will always be a place in football for strikers who can drive attacks alone, through the sheer force of their on-field personalities, their drive and determination, and their physical advantages. Of course, the likes of Didier Drogba, Wayne Rooney, Diego Costa and Carlos Tevez combined their physicality with supreme technical ability; ultimately reaching world-class status during their era. They defined the “one-man army” concept.
Not many players of the present era can boast of that combination, especially the ‘supreme technical ability’ part, but there are some that have been able to tap into a bit of what those legends served. Beyond the glamourous things that football aficionados go crazy over, from technical skills to stats, clubs can make exceptions for young players who do not tick all those boxes, but are able to live on their own, on the pitch.
One such player is El Bilal Touré, the 21-year-old forward who plays for Almeria. Born in Abidjan to Malian parents, he joined Ivoire Académie FC where his football journey began. Aged 15, he moved to Bamako’s Afrique Football Élite where he continued his development before earning a move to Stade de Reims in France. It was there that he started to gain more continental attention with his performances, ultimately earning himself a move to Almeria.
El Bilal stands at 185cm, a physically imposing striker who is often a presence in attack and capable of using his big frame effectively in the air and in physical duels. Despite his frame, he is reliable with his feet, able to use both at a good level. This makes him a bit unpredictable, a quality that gives him an edge.
He can play a variety of roles at centre forward, because of his skill set and the way he uses his body. His link-up play is good, as is his hold-up play. He is adept at creating danger through the channels. He is also a mobile hard worker who presses and helps out defensively. His entire skill set makes him useful for several systems and likely to adapt and excel in whatever approach is adopted.
While his stats may look deceptively poor, when his minutes are put into consideration, they are actually quite decent. His minutes in La Liga last season added up to 14 full 90s, with him delivering 7 goals and 2 assists. In his previous season at Reims in Ligue 1, he produced 2 goals and 4 assists in 13.3 full 90s.
Yes, those are hardly special numbers but they certainly suggest there is potential for him to be a more prolific scorer, in a significantly better team that creates much more. The xG data suggests that he is scoring around the same level that he should be reasonably expected to. That said, his inability to score more may also be down to certain weaknesses.
Despite his good qualities, El Bilal is still quite raw, both in technique and decision-making. His touches can be laboured sometimes, and he is sometimes erratic with his finishing. As with most young players, he is inconsistent in several parts of his game. He also gets a bit too frustrated when his runs are not picked up by his teammates; expected, of course, but it can suck the life out of his drive and concentration at crucial moments.
One thing that is clear is that clubs bigger than Almeria can see El Bilal’s potential, which is why there is strong interest in him. His weaknesses are things he can polish under the right guidance, and his ability to be a one-man army makes it easy to ignore those weaknesses and how they can impact his production. Even when he is not scoring, he is a threat that can make things happen, do a job or get stuck in. A lot of clubs like having that, especially in games where things are not going their way. A striker who can bring that to the table is automatically an asset.
If El Bilal Touré gets his big move this summer, fans of whichever club he joins can be assured that he will be a solid signing. There is so much more to come from him. If he can get consistent starts and a lot more stability in the team he joins, he will definitely multiply his production and triple his value.
By: Astorre S. Cerebronè / @xyCerebrone
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Quality Sport Images / Getty Images