Oumar Diakité: The Ivorian Winger Poised for Greatness

They say that modern football is losing something. “Recipes”, some on Twitter call it. The overwhelming sentiment being that the game no longer has enough players at the top level with flair, flamboyance, magic even. Players who have the ability to consistently come up with their own solutions, dribble past players and perform silky moves, players with the freedom to express themselves.


They mourn the loss of individuality and the monster mentality that made players of previous eras seem godlike, with their supreme technical abilities. These critics of the modern game argue about how early players are fed overwhelming information and over-coached, stifling their expression and hindering the development of their technical skills, leading to football now producing top-division players with half-baked technical ability. In truth, they might have a point. 


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One thing people don’t talk about, however, is how much modern football is missing bravery; the persistence to execute and repeat actions relentlessly, even after repeated failures, and keep knocking, even when previous attempts have proven futile. That isn’t to say that such players are rigid and unimaginative, sticking to things that aren’t working. Rather, players who understand the power of persistence and volume, of knocking until the door opens.


For instance, take Edinson Cavani, one of the great strikers of the last era who unfortunately earned a reputation for missing too many chances – even though it was quite common with all the great strikers of his era. The most striking thing about his game, pardon the pun, was his relentlessness; the quickness with which he bounced back from a miss to re-appear in scoring positions, and how often he would take shots regardless.


Examining his mentality reveals the fruits of this relentless bravery—driving one to bounce back from setbacks consistently. Bravery is the vehicle for flair, flamboyance, magic, mentality and all the rest. The players who will dominate football for the next decade will be the brave ones. 


Oumar Diakité is one of the brave ones, even though it remains to be seen whether his potential will take him to heights reserved for the cream of the crop. Standing at 1.82m, the 20-year-old forward’s profile is unique—tall, powerful, and fast, capable of dribbling masterclasses typically expected from shorter players.



More importantly, he is a fearless disruptor, around whom there is no rest even when he isn’t scoring goals. His impact was evident during his cameos at AFCON for Côte d’Ivoire. When they were in trouble or needed inspiration, he was one of the players thrown in to make something happen. At club level, he is used as a centre forward, with the freedom to roam and operate in the channels while providing a presence and threat centrally.


Côte d’Ivoire deployed him purely as a winger on either side, expecting him to use his dribbling ability, speed and power and youthful energy to force the issue when things were not working out. What they needed the most was his bravery. Where other more experienced players would retreat and opt for a more patient approach, Oumar would drive in and spark chaos with his directness.


In a tournament setting where time always seems to be running away, and where Côte d’Ivoire often found themselves in trouble, that was exactly what they needed. The patient methodical approach never seemed to work, and it was left for players like Oumar to produce something different with their bravery and relentless energy, pushing and pushing until something opened up. 


In the quarter final against Mali, in which Côte d’Ivoire were reduced to 10 men quite early, it was Diakité that popped up with the winner at the death, in a moment of ingenuity, turning Seko Fofana’s snapshot into goal with his heel. What happened in the next minute, however, introduces us to one of his weaknesses.


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Already on a yellow, he took off his shirt in the euphoria, bagging a second yellow card which meant he was suspended for the semi final. This was youthful exuberance mixing badly with poor decision-making. One could point to veteran Vincent Aboubakar doing the same at the World Cup as a counter, but Aboubakar was fully aware and composed when he made his decision, and Cameroon were on their way home anyway.


One got the sense that he wanted to stamp that image on the World Cup, on his way out. Diakité’s was clearly an error, due to being overcome by emotion, which could have cost his team in the semi final. He simply got carried away and made a bad decision. To add to that, they were already a man down in the game, although there were barely 2 minutes left to play. His regret was immediately evident once he realised.


Like most young players, Diakité is inconsistent in most things, his decision-making, his dribbling, his finishing, and more. His inconsistent dribbling is perhaps what stands out the most. He is a Jekyll and Hyde dribbler; one who can deliver an absolute dribbling masterclass one day and do the complete opposite a few days later.


For example, in August 2023, Reims faced Clermont at home, and Diakité managed to win only 1 of his 11 duels, completing 0 out of 5 dribbles before he was subbed off. For context, Clermont eventually finished dead last on the Ligue 1 table. 7 days later, they visited a dangerous Montpellier side at the Stade de la Mosson.



This time around, Diakité completed 9/9 dribbles, winning 18 out of 28 duels, including 14 out of 18 ground duels. He managed to win a penalty as well, which he missed, but that is beside the point. On this day, he was unplayable as Reims ran out 3-1 winners at a tough venue.


The contrast between this dribbling performance and the one from a week prior was stark. Naturally, in the next game away at Metz who ultimately finished 2 places above Clermont, he won just 2 of 10 duels, completing only 1 out of 4 dribbles. Nothing tells the tale of the inconsistency of his dribbling, and his general inconsistency, quite like this.


On his day, he is capable of destroying defenders at will, but that is usually sandwiched between other performances that leave a lot to be desired. That inconsistency is expected of young players, however. Perhaps, the biggest surprise is how weak he is in the air, for such a big and strong lad. According to Sofascore, he won only 0.8 duels per game this season, at a 26% rate. 


Although mostly used as a centre forward by Reims, Diakité is at his best on the wings. He is dynamic enough to be unpredictable on either side, brave enough to consistently take on defenders, and can bring his teammates into play. He is also able to create, is solid off the ball – whether when his team is in possession or when they are  defending without it – can shoot and can score.


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His agility and stamina are major strengths as well; physically, he is capable of so much. Technically, he is just as difficult to play against, especially when placed in situations where he can use his strengths well. Combined with his speed, he has the makings of a classic winger who can do major numbers whether in a counter-attacking team or a possession-heavy side facing low blocks.


That said, what is evident is that his game still needs refining to take away the inconsistency in different aspects of his game, and to maximise what he is great at. Perhaps, this can start with him playing on the wings for his club, but that will be difficult. Junya Ito, easily the best player at Reims, playing from the right is a major obstacle to that, as is Keito Nakamura who plays from the left.


Alternatively, if Diakité were to develop fully and excellently as a centre forward at Reims, he could have top clubs chasing him in no time. With a scarcity of quality strikers in the game and his unique and fascinating skillset, his path to the top could be smoother. 



The game belongs to the brave ones, and Oumar Diakité is one of them. If he can use that to devastating effect, there is no height too great for the AFCON winner to reach.


By: Astorre S. Cerebróne / @Cerebrone

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Icon Sport