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Transfer Spotlight: Aston Villa’s Boubacar Kamara

Steven Gerrard has attracted one of the most promising young talents in European football

Boubacar Kamara - Aston Villa - Premier League
Do you think Boubacar Kamara is going to shine for Villa next season?
Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images

Aston Villa has moved fast this transfer window, with three players already in the books, and Steven Gerrard is far from finished in the transfer window, still keen on adding a few more talents.

He did instant business making the deal permanent for loanee Philippe Coutinho from Barcelona, and spent £26m to capture Sevilla’s defender Diego Carlos. He also signed a midfielder, in the free transfer of Boubacar Kamara from Marseille who is going to be highlighted here.

However, it is important to mention that rumors have Villa looking to sign three more players — starting in the left-back department to give competition to Lucas Digne (signed in January) — then in the midfield and striker positions as well.

There’s a potential signing of Luis Suarez, who is leaving Atletico Madrid when his contract expires at the end of June. Hence, the club is closely monitoring the experienced forward with his next destination still uncertain.

Moreover, Villa was interested in Scotland international Aaron Hickey from Bologna, but the 19-year-old’s £20m market value has pushed Villa away from the deal.

They are also monitoring Rangers’ defender Calvin Bassey, signed by Gerrard — then manager for the Scottish club in 2018. Relegated side Burnley’s James Tarkowski is another player on the club’s wish-list for the summer.

In midfield, Villa is still targeting Yves Bissouma. The West Midlands club attempted to sign Bissouma in January, but Brighton didn’t accept the deal.

For now though let’s push the speculation aside and talk about one of Villa’s transfers that is done and dusted: versatile midfielder Boubacar Kamara, who has signed a five-year contract on a free transfer from Marseille.


Background

Boubacar Kamara has been the heart of midfield for Marseilles for most seasons, as he played a vital role in this season’s Ligue 1 campaign when Marseilles finished second in the table and pushed to the Europa Conference League semi-finals.

Kamara is Marseilles born and bred, becoming a regular at Stade Velodrome as a child. He joined the club’s academy at age five to become a homegrown hero for the club. The midfielder would spend his whole youth career inside Marseilles’ youth system before debuting in a Coupe de France match. He also became the club’s youngest ever European tournament player.

His acceptance and involvement in the first-team was slow and steady, picking up enough minutes and experience before becoming a regular in the squad. The youngster made his debut for Marseilles just under a month after he turned 17, in a Coupe de la Ligue match against Sochaux in December 2016.

Despite being just 22, Kamara leaves his hometown side having made 170 appearances for the senior team, quite impressive for a player at a top club in a major European league. That is something not often seen in the modern game, and it has made him one of the most in-demand young players in European football, with several clubs constantly linked with his name. The likes of Man United, Newcastle and Roma were rumored to be among the teams interested in his signature.

In fact, just last month, Atletico Madrid came close to securing his transfer to replace want-away Hector Herrera. However, in the end Aston Villa won the race for the talented young midfielder.


What does Kamara bring to Aston Villa?

The France international brings a raft of experience despite being just 22 years old. Kamara has played the majority of his games in Ligue 1, but he also featured in all three European formats – Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League.

The youngster made 16 appearances in the Europa League, helping his French side reach the final against Atletico Madrid in 2018. In October 2020, he made his UCL debut against Pep Guardiola’s Man City and went on to feature in five of Marseilles’ six group games that year.

And, last season Marseilles reached the semifinals of the Europa Conference League before losing to Feyenoord, the midfielder starting five of their seven knockout games.

In fact, the youngster received his maiden call-up to the France senior squad earlier this month for the UEFA Nations League. Against Denmark the French side lost 1-0 before facing Austria and Croatia. This is a giant step in the midfielder’s growth, as his call-up for the country proves that his good domestic form has not gone unnoticed.

France’s manager Didier Deschamps selected the youngster after his fine form in the Ligue 1, but Kamara has also impressed for Les Bleus at age-group level. Plus, the 22-year-old has represented his country in numerous U17, U19 and U21 European Championships and the U20 World Cup.

He’s going to provide Villa versatility and positional sense. Kamara is known as a defensive midfielder but has been utilized in a number of positions since breaking into the senior side — including center-back, occasionally featuring at right and left-back when required. He played under four managers — Rudi Garcia, Andre Villas-Boas, Nasser Larguet and Jorge Sampoali.

Kamara is known for his ability to play the ball out from the back and break the opposition’s press in a style similar to Rodri or Fabinho (but obviously not to their standards yet). Hence, from a defensive point of view, he shows great footballing intelligence.

But in the past few seasons in France, a shift further forward has seen him excel as a defensive midfielder, while showcasing versatility again in central midfield and even as a right-side midfielder.

Kamara finds himself in positions to make interceptions regularly and holds the ball exceptionally well with his first touch control. This is proved by an excellent 91% pass completion rate, significantly higher than his competition for the role at Villa. The player makes 70.2 passes per 90 minutes which is way higher than his closest competitor at Villa — Douglas Luiz who plays 40.2 passes per 90 minutes

Back in April, Steven Gerrard went to watch Kamara play in a game (Marseille vs Nantes) where the young midfielder played as the deepest midfielder in a 4-3-3 formation, a key figure at the Stade Velodrome, helping the hosts overturn a deficit to win 3-2. In that game, Kamara registered an assist and helped manage the tempo of the match as his side dominated possession (76%).

Kamara also has impressive defensive skills, making 1.4 interceptions and 2 successful tackles per 90 minutes played. This area is also where he outscores Morgan Sanson, Marvelous Nakamba and Douglas Luiz, who are Villa’s three current options in the defensive midfield area.

These attributes were hard to Gerrard to ignore, and the Frenchman now looks poised to feature for Aston Villa in the Premier League this season.


Fantasy Prospects

Defensive midfielders are rarely productive in fantasy formats — they usually miss the scoring criteria (neither contributing to goals nor receiving defenders’ points for clean sheets). The likes of Declan Rice, Fabinho, Rodri or even Kalvin Phillips might be influential in real-life, but they’re not the players that fantasy managers think much about. However, Boubacar Kamara might shift our thinking on this.

It really depends on how Steven Gerrard opts to play him, and how the injuries that Aston Villa may face from week to week affect where Kamara plays. With the signing of Douglas Costa completed, I doubt that Kamara will play at the back.

And there are enough players in Villa’s attack, so it’s really the defensive midfield department where Villa significantly improves from Kamara’s signing. There he can control the tempo of the game, have the legs to press and intercept, and especially have an attacking mindset to push the ball forward when necessary.

Kamara may not be the most exciting asset in the world of fantasy, but perhaps with a cheap price-tag on him, and Gerrard possibly fielding him as a right-side midfielder or even in the back line, he may not be a bad player to have in a fantasy squad. This is especially true in Fantrax where he can begin to earn phantom points in certain roles, where a real-life defensive appearance could earn him a defender’s CS bonus while classed as a mid. It’s even possible that his versatility could earn him a handy dual Fantrax classification a D or M.

Regardless, Kamara is extremely young and talented, is a good passer of the ball, has the ability to read the opposition’s play, presses and intercepts well enough, and can also move into multiple positions. That’s all vital for an attacking team like Aston Villa. And who knows? The young Kamara may very well surprise in the world of fantasy too.


Poll

Do you think Boubacar Kamara is going to be a successful signing for Aston Villa in the Premier League?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Yes
    (2 votes)
  • 14%
    No
    (1 vote)
  • 57%
    Maybe
    (4 votes)
7 votes total Vote Now

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[Stats, and info for this article were source from en.wikipedia.org, bbc.com, skysports.com, avfc.co.uk]

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What do you think about Kamara? Do you think he’s going to play a key role in Villa’s campaign? Is he going to be in your fantasy plans, or will you wait to see how things unfold next season? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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