From Bordeaux to Famalicão: The Rise of Zaydou Youssouf

Primeira Liga side F.C. Famalicão has been entertaining residents of Vila Nova de Famalicão with a brand of football inspired by the ideals of its six founding friends since its foundation on Friday, 21 August 1931. Financed by the Quantum Pacific Group, the club is now making ambitious strides with proficient players from around the globe, with France’s Zaydou Youssouf spearheading proceedings in the midfield.


At 24 years of age, Youssouf is cultivating a reputation as a combative central midfielder with extensive drive and determination. As he continues to earn plaudits with a catalogue of impressive performances, the anticipation of further growth is resonating across the region. The Frenchman has become a firm fan-favourite with his adopted club as he continues to adapt to a growing Portuguese influence.



But his journey began in his native France when he joined the ranks of CMO Bassens at the age of eight. Like many boys his age, he was eager to replicate the greats of Les Bleus, with hopes of transitioning to one of the many perennial powerhouses of the famous Ligue 1. He was notably athletic for his age, and his unquestionable skillset inevitably attracted the gaze of several major scouts.


Nestled on the river Garonne in southwestern France, the magnificent city of Bordeaux is regarded by many as the world capital of wine and a celebrated centre of gastronomy. But, amongst its many revered specialisations stands the 142-year-old FC Girondins de Bordeaux, and it is here that this talented player acquired the knowledge and the confidence to step outside of his comfort zone. 


Arriving as a naive ten-year-old, a promising boy quickly transitioned through the famous classes of the six-time champions of French football’s ultimate domestic title. A seven-year youth career inevitably ended with a professional debut in November 2016 – a 1-1 draw with domestic rivals Bastia. Additionally, his growth earned international recognition with an under-17 appearance in 2017.


But a stark decline in the club’s fortunes from successive sixth-placed finishes in 2016-17 and 2017-18 saw a dramatic fall towards relegation in four years, limiting the player’s growth and opening the door to a move to Saint-Étienne in 2019. He lined out on 88 occasions for the Ligue 1 outfit, aiding in avoiding relegation during his first two seasons. Despite his best efforts, Les Verts were relegated following 18 successive campaigns in the top tier in his third and final season at the club.


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Following the side’s dismissal from Ligue 1, a host of European admirers came knocking for the services of the latest French footballing starlet. Appreciating the passion of their partisan support and the ambition of Israeli businessman Idan Ofer, the allure of a move to Portugal was difficult to refuse, and, on 4 August 2022, he signed a four-year deal with the Famalicenses.


While the club is small, their desire is far greater than one could imagine. Playing their home games at the modest Estádio Municipal 22 de Junho – a multi-use stadium with a capacity of 5307, they burst back into Primeira Liga life in 2019 with a remarkable sixth-placed finish. Four years have passed, and João Pedro Sousa’s side continues to upset many of Portugal’s elite names. 


Within the ranks of this entertaining club is a credible scouting facility that continuously entices a variety of household names. In recent years, former Bola de Prata winner Pedro Gonçalves earned the Primeira Liga Young Player of the Year award for his performances during a season-long stint with the club in 2019-20. Iván Jaime also collected a Young Player of the Year award before his move to Portuguese giants Porto in August 2023.


Youssouf arrived in Famalicão with locals eager to witness their latest talent monopolise the midfield for their beloved side. Standing six foot tall with a visibly large frame and dynamic engine, the Frenchman regularly displayed a combination of commendable displays in defensive and offensive transitions.



His debut season in 2022-23 was an immediate success, with his strengths surfacing in each appearance. He averaged 3.3 tackles per game and achieved a 96 percentile for tackles won in the domestic league. His work rate off the ball was also commendable, as he averaged a staggering 7.64 recoveries per 90 minutes, ranking in the 91 percentile throughout the entire campaign.


While he tended to avoid participation in intricate short build-up play, his vision for lengthy passes is startling. Averaging 9.2 long passes per 90 minutes, with a success rate of 6.3, an 89 percentile in this particular category is remarkable when considering the notable technicality within the league. Additionally, he ranked in the 95 percentile for successful switches per 90 minutes.


Furthermore, his ball control stands amongst the elite in Portugal, with his box-to-box features growing with each appearance. He averaged 3.4 take-ons per 90 minutes throughout the season, achieving success at a remarkable rate of 70.4%, with 2.4 per 90 minutes. At 24, his desire to impact the game on either side of the field has earned plaudits throughout various publications, with many suggesting he is on the cusp of international recognition.


Following a positive pre-season in July 2023, the superstar has featured in all but one league outing against Portimonense following a one-match suspension. He continues to dominate in his favoured metrics while enhancing his shorter passing game. As per Sofascore, Youssouf is averaging just under one key pass per 90 minutes, with 4.4 passes into the final third. Impressively, his xA stands at a remarkable 0.83 throughout this current campaign.


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When considering the necessary traits for any footballer, the most valuable asset is availability. While the Frenchman is known to collect an occasional yellow card, his commitment to training and adaptability to various scenarios remains amongst the elite in Portugal. He has averaged 85 minutes per game played this season while covering an overall distance in the top five percentile.


With every passing fixture, the number 28 for Azuis e Brancos delivers a statement throughout the division, and his displays have reverberated across the continent. As the desire for a no-nonsense box-to-box footballer has grown with the continuous evolution of the game, we are witnessing a sensational talent who has but begun to scratch the surface of his absolute dexterities. 


The passionate support of this humble organisation will pray they may hold onto their adopted son for the foreseeable future. The vision of the Quantum Pacific Group is one of growth and development – as they harness the experiences acquired at Spanish giants Atlético Madrid. However, with the departures of star names such as Iván Jaime, Pedro Gonçalves and Toni Martínez, there is a certain sense of inevitability about Zaydou Youssouf. But, for now, the side who continues to defy the odds will marvel at their latest paladin, with hopes he may aid in their quest to earn a spot in European competition.


By: Shaun Connolly / @shaunconnolly85

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Gualter Fatia – Getty Images


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