In 2016, RB Salzburg brought a dynamic midfielder from a Malian academy to Europe. In 2018, that very man helped the Austrian giants to their best ever European campaign.
To say that the Red Bull club are a European powerhouse would be too far, but they are certainly a club to be feared in Europe’s second tier competition. And that status is largely down to the emergence of a certain Amadou Haidara.
2018 has been …
…Pretty good, to be honest.
While Haidara actually made his Austrian Bundesliga debut back in 2017, the year of 2018 is really where he hit the kind of level that saw him nominated for the inaugural Kopa award alongside the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Christian Pulisic and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
A dynamic central midfielder, Haidara managed to add end product to his game, to compliment his obvious physical traits, making him a real force in European football and a player often linked with big moves to some of the powerhouses around the continent.
Establishing himself as a regular at the start of the campaign, the 20-year-old’s tactical intelligence has been plain to see for much of his breakthrough season. Operating in a variety of midfield roles, whether it be in a central position or on the flank, his understanding of the game has taken on a new level under the watchful eye of Marco Rose.
Helping drive Die Roten Bullen to a second title on the bounce, the midfielder managed to bag seven goals across all competitions, as well as registering a pretty stunning 16 assists from a midfield berth. Indeed, impressive stats for someone who only turned 20 years of age in January, though its the important of some of his contributions that speak to his growing importance in big matches.
Goals in the Europa League quarter and semi finals respectively helped the Austrian giants make a mark on the continental stage at last, while three assists in a single game against Rapid Vienna back in May helped cap off an excellent first full season.
Though international recognition came towards the latter part of 2017, Haidara became a regular for his country in 2018. Despite the fact he’s yet to replicate his goals and assists record at international level, Mali boss Mohamed Magassouba opted to use him in four games this year, playing the entire 90 minutes, so he’s certainly getting there.
Still, as good as 2018 has been, Haidara will unfortunately have ended it on a relatively sour note. Pulling out of international duty for November’s African Cup of Nations qualifier against Gabon, it was revealed by his club later than month that he’d suffered a ligament injury and would be out of action for around four months. Expected to be back in March, it’ll be a race to prove his fitness in time for the Cup of Nations next summer, which is a real shame for a player previously on the up.
Aside from the aforementioned injury, 2018 was a good year for Haidara. Major roles in a league winning-campaign, as well as help taking his side to a Europa League semi-final, he seems to be fitting in well for the Austrian outfit.
If he can prove his fitness and make an impact at the Cup of Nations, there’s no reason why he can’t make a huge impact on the tournament, which would in turn, launch him into a higher category of player right away.