He’s quick, he’s a left sided forward, and he has the ability to pick out a teammate for an assist or even go for goal himself. This isn’t Sadio Mané, but another Senegalese forward by the name of Ismailia Sarr, who recently joined Stade Rennais from Metz this summer. Before making his move across France, Sarr had been linked with the likes of Newcastle United, Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona, and for good reason as well. He’s extremely talented and in today’s market, he looks a steal for £15M and as clichéd as it sounds, Rennes might just have the next Ousmane Dembélé on their hands.
Emmanuel Adebayor and Sadio Mané have both arrived at Metz from Africa in years past, and whilst Sarr isn’t comparable to Adebayor, it is clear that Metz identified Sarr as a Mané-like player, someone who bares a similar style to the Liverpool forward and someone who could be sold on for an even greater profit that Metz received this summer. But why was Sarr in such high demand this summer, especially for someone so raw when it comes to playing time?
A look at his stats from his first season for Metz reveals he scored five goals and provided five assists in 33 games in all competitions, and whilst that may not seem that impressive on first glance, one must consider all surrounding factors. Only
two other players scored more for the club–Mevlüt Erdinç and Cheick Diabaté–and Sarr was joint-first when it came to assists as well, with right back Iván Balliu creating five as well.
Sarr’s influence on this side can be felt from looking solely at the stats, and for a 19-year-old, it is very impressive, but his performances themselves were much better than the figures give him credit for. His major performances came in the second half of the season, after the winter break, and it was clear to see that the first half of the season was just Sarr getting used to the step up into first team action.
Rarely will you see a youth prospect immediately take to first team football as soon as they’re called up, especially someone from a different country, but once Sarr found his feet, there was no stopping him. His first goal came against Dijon, when he tucked away a tidy finish from close range before winning the penalty that eventually won the game for Metz. His trickery and pace got the better of Dijon right back Fouad Chafik and left him with no choice but to take Sarr down. His next goal would come against Saint-Étienne in a 2-2 draw. The ball dropped over Sarr’s shoulder and he just touched it gently with his foot whilst going away from goal. It doesn’t look like anything is on as the defenders retreat, but Sarr shrugs one off and weaves past a midfielder who tried to close him down and almost immediately lets loose with his right foot into the far corner of the goal.
It was unstoppable and it let everyone know that Sarr has incredible talent, especially when he’s coming off of the left flank onto his right foot. This was just a snapshot of what he’s capable of, and it can be such a joy to see how Sarr does it with such confidence, such pace, and such power. It was very reminiscent of Sadio Mané’s strike against Arsenal at Anfield, when he picked the ball up on the left wing, cut in onto his favoured right foot and curled it into the corner. The comparisons between the two are more than just the same nationalities and the fact they have both played for Les Grenats; it’s their playing styles. Mané is a few inches shorter than Sarr, which makes him just that bit quicker, but the height that Sarr has means he’s more than capable of adding strength in the air to his game. His wonderful bicycle kick effort against Caen shows that he’s got the ability to reach those higher balls and turn wasted crosses into spectacular finishes. But with all this potential that Sarr has shown in glimpses across his first season in Ligue 1, where can this guy reach? What is his ceiling and where is his skill set best suited for in the future?
Obviously, we don’t want to take Sarr away from Rennes when he’s only just joined, but the simple fact of the matter is he has too much potential and has the ability to be a world class player, which usually means he will be on his way out in about a year or two. When he has learns how and when to release the ball, the Premier League could be the perfect league for him. Direct pace and the ability to score from coming in off the wing is a talent that Premier League clubs spend millions on, but what Sarr doesn’t have just yet is the maturity that is required for England. At the same time, he has only just finished his first season at the professional level; this will come with time.
Ousmane Dembélé reaped the rewards of playing on the flank at Rennes, and if Sarr can keep up his good form (he’s already scored a goal in his first four games at the club), then soon enough, bigger clubs will take notice. We may not have seen the best of Ismailia Sarr just yet, but after just one impressive season in Ligue 1, the best is yet to come from this 19-year-old. He has bags of potential, lots of admirers, and will be one of the players to keep an eye on this season across Europe.
By: Tom Scholes/@TomScholes316