22 Striker Fiorentina Senegal
Khouma Babacar’s journey to Florence represents a very modern route. As a teenager he was in effect imported by Pescara, who oversaw his development until a switch to Fiorentina in 2008. There, he was introduced to the first team by Cesare Prandelli, making his debut in the Coppa Italia at 16 and scoring.
It was a lightning start for the striker but it didn’t guarantee future progress. Babacar’s had to bide his time, spending plenty of matches on the Fiorentina bench as well as heading out on loan to Racing Santander, Padova and Modena. Only now is he a regular feature in the Fiorentina first team and he’s yet to establish himself as a starter.
2015 has been…
A mixed bag. Babacar started 11 league matches in 2014/15 before missing the last seven with a knee injury, and he’s in and out of the side in 2015/16 too. An unused substitute on eight occasions with the Viola very much in contention at the top of Serie A, Babacar has started five times and come on as a substitute three times this season.
But there’s another side to that coin. A tally of four goals in 360 minutes played gives Babacar an eye-catching average of a goal every 90 minutes, a fact rarely unnoticed by commentary teams when Fiorentina are in televised action. He scores important goals, including a Europa League winner against Dynamo Kiev in April. They were hammered by Sevilla in the semi-finals.
His appearances across this season and last, albeit irregular, have brought with them no shortage of plaudits. He is, when push comes to shove, a fine prospect.
Although he’s sometimes introduced into games late in order to make a nuisance of himself – and succeeding – there’s plenty more to his game. He plays as the focal point of the Fiorentina attack but they don’t go long to him and play instead to his considerable strengths. He carries himself like a stockier player and the result is a lurking, threatening presence who stalks around up top waiting for opportunities to make himself known.
When those chances come he’s explosive. He can switch from walking pace to a fizzing burst to create an opening to receive a pass and he’s just as vibrant in the box, coming to life when he gets a sniff of goal.
He doesn’t drop deep often but when he does it he does so intelligently. Outside the box he’s less wily striker and more physical forward. Inside, it’s about sensing a moment and making a move out of nowhere. He does it very, very well and he scores some fabulous goals as a result.
Babacar is tied to Fiorentina until 2019 and, with them in fine fettle, he’d be crazy to want a move in the short term. In 2016 he’ll be hoping to translate his goal ratio into a similar record over more minutes, but he’ll need to work on his occasionally profligate finishing in order to make that happen.
This is a player who links play well with his back to goal, has a good short passing game, scores goals and has the sheer iron balls to take a Panenka penalty despite his modest years. It’s remarkable, therefore, that he’s yet to be capped by the Senegalese senior national team. He won’t be uncapped for long.
C- The ability is clear but Babacar’s fantastic potential is yet to be fully realised
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