21 Midfielder Shanghai SIPG Côte d’Ivoire
Sprightly, bounding two footed Ivorian winger/striker who had been a regular at Hajduk since arriving in Croatia in 2013. Included in the IBWM100 for the first time last year, Kouassi had offered an indication that he was on the verge of becoming a lot more than an outlet ball for the Split club.
A former apprentice at Moossou FC, Kouassi frequently looked threatening in an advanced role, outstripping opposition defences with formidable pace and power. Whilst end product wasn’t always a given – and his finishing could be wayward – there were enough suggestions that things were clicking and Hajduk may have a player on their hands. Premier League clubs came and watched, as did scouts from the best sides in Italy and Germany, and all will have noted a potential gem that, with patience, could be a useful addition. As the winter break arrived, so did the likelihood of a move and while the biggest names had withdrawn, we expected Kouassi to register elsewhere, or, at the very least, fire Hajduk on for a title push.
2015 has been…
Kouassi landed his move to a new country with a starting slot at a club challenging for the title. His new employers had significant cash to spend and appointed an internationally respected coach not long before the Ivorian arrived. While the smart money was on Belgium, Switzerland or the Netherlands being the destination of choice, we were particularly surprised to see Kouassi paraded as a big arrival in China after agreeing a deal with Sven-Göran Eriksson’s Shanghai SIPG. There’s certainly no disgrace in making for the Far East and the wages on offer will have been a significant pull. The opportunity to work with Eriksson and play alongside Dario Conca will have appealed, but we did think Kouassi should have aimed higher.
With the move secured and a regular start guaranteed, Kouassi is the type of player we’d expect to have made an impact in the Chinese Super League but his early matches were restricted to substitute appearances. By the time he had begun to gain any kind of momentum, operating to the left of playmaker Conca, the internal pressure to overhaul freescoring Guangzhou Evergrande proved too much for his employers and, with their foreign player quota filled, Kouassi became something of a scapegoat.
With the need for more goals, Shanghai brought in money’s own Asamoah Gyan to lead the line and re-drafted Hai Yu to compliment Conca and the outstanding Lei Wu. Quite simply, Kouassi didn’t impress enough and the youngster was despatched to the reserves in July where he has remained since.
We’re not going to dumb down the Chinese top flight which is a higher standard than many people realise, but few inductees into the IBWM100 have fallen as far and as rapidly as Kouassi. Links to Dortmund and Arsenal could not be further away now and while far from finished product, there was enough there to suggest an impact could have been made for someone willing to take a punt. What’s next is anyone’s guess.
E There must be more to life than this?
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