The intricacies involved in navigating the difficult path from a non-traditional football powerhouse to a top 5 league are so often understated. It is not only the tricky pathways that prove daunting but also the tendency for talents from less heralded nations to be overlooked in favour of those emerging from footballing giants.
Georgia’s Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Giorgi Mamardashvili can testify – they were reportedly overlooked by various clubs because of their nationality, with many skeptical about whether talents from there could cut it on the big stage. That is, sadly, the reality for many footballers. There is just more trust in talents coming out of the bigger countries, even if they belong to the same talent bracket as these others. Tradition, reputation, history, and track record reign supreme.
Against this backdrop, it becomes particularly remarkable when somebody beats the odds, even better when he instantly holds his own and makes his mark. Musa Al-Taamari is the latest of such players. The Jordanian international joined Montpellier in the summer, after spending the last five years in Cyprus and Belgium.
That was a long route to the top level, considering the bags of ability he has, but better late than never. For context, he is currently the only Jordanian international, from their most recent squad, who plays outside Asia. He may not necessarily be the most talented out of Jordan – who knows? – but he certainly is the outlier and the shining example for many, the evidence that Jordan’s got talent, the one that made it all the way.
Al-Taamari’s start to life at Montpellier has been eye-catching. 3 goals, 3 assists and 4 big chances created in 13 games is excellent for a new signing at a midtable club. He is also averaging 2.4 dribbles completed per 90 and completing 47%, bettered only by Rayan Cherki’s 2.5 (55%), Ousmane Dembele’s 2.8 (44%), Romain Del Castillo’s 2.8 (47%) and Edon Zhegrova’s 2.9 (58%) in France’s top-flight.
Those are the official numbers. Unofficially, he has scored 5 goals – the 2 goals he scored against Clermont have been chalked off because it was abandoned and subsequently cancelled. Montpellier were up 4-2, he had been subbed off after a wonderful performance, only for Senegalese goalkeeper Mory Diaw to be hit by a firework in added time.
The Jordanian has not made a goal contribution for Montpellier since returning from the October international break, but he has nevertheless remained a constant in Michel Der Zakarian’s XI. He registered four shots, two key passes, won five ground duels and completed three dribbles as Montpellier drew 1-1 to Clermont Foot, before opening December with a 2-0 defeat at Monaco.
That notwithstanding, his numbers still look fantastic. In terms of his performances beyond the goal contributions, he has been a real livewire for Montpellier, winning the most penalties in Ligue 1 (2) and Playing in a front 4 with captain Teji Savanier, veteran Wahbi Khazri (and sometimes, youngster Khalil Fayad) and Akor Adams – who has also been a revelation – he has blossomed and looked every bit like a ceiling raiser.
What makes Al-Tamaari stand out is his dribbling and ball-carrying ability. His close control and agility mean that he can easily find his way out of tight spaces before driving forward with the ball and creating danger. With an abundance of pace, he maintains firm control while dribbling at full speed, deftly navigating challenges. When Montpellier are playing deeper, hoping to destroy their opponents in transition, he is the outlet.
He can draw players to himself before dribbling past them fairly easily and carrying the ball into the final third. His decision-making is also very refined; and he is usually aware of the movements all around him even when it doesn’t look like it. On either flank, he is just as devastating, his strong technical ability makes him dangerous regardless of the angle.
Al-Tamaari’s qualities make him a valuable player to have, regardless of the tactical approach or setup. Of course, he needs to be seen over the course of a full season in France before a more comprehensive assessment of his true level can be made. It is still early days, after all. That said, his excellent start bodes well for the future. Even though there isn’t much talk about him yet, he is on course to change that if he continues to thrive.
At 26, he is also well-placed to even shift the conversation around Jordanian football, which continues to rise. It is players like Al-Tamaari who will give legitimacy to the emerging talents and open up the potential of the country’s football. He is certainly aware of his influence and the responsibility thrust upon his shoulders. He looks up for it, aware of what his success could mean for his country. It is time to pay attention; a showstopper is in town.
By: Astorre S. Cerebróne / @Cerebrone
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / BSR Agency / Getty