He's been dubbed as Naby Keita's successor and idolised Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, but who exactly is new RB Leipzig signing Amadou Haidara?
bundesliga.com dusts off the microscope for a closer look after Haidara scored on his full Bundesliga debut in the 5-0 rout of Hertha Berlin on Matchday 27...
1) Early starter
Born and raised in the landlocked African nation of Mali on 31 January 1998, Haidara hails from Bamako in the south-west of the country, close to the border with Guinea. He started playing football at the age of five with his brothers and friends before his talent was discovered by JMG Academy Bamoko, where he progressed through the youth ranks. Haidara was eventually scouted by Austrian champions Red Bull Salzburg in 2016, but initially went out on loan to second division side FC Liefering to help him acclimatise to European football.
2) UEFA Youth League winner
Haidara scored two goals in 25 appearances for Liefering, but was called back to Salzburg and slotted into the U19 side. He was in the starting line-up for every game of the UEFA Youth League knockout rounds in early 2017 (including facing Jadon Sancho and Manchester City in the play-offs) beating Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona en route to the final, where they overcame Benfica 2-1 to lift Salzburg's first title at U19 level.
Although he was just 19 at the time, that was not Haidara's first taste of international football. He was also a mainstay in the Mali side that reached the final of the FIFA U17 World Cup in Chile in 2015, which they ended up losing 2-0 to Nigeria.
3) The next Gerrard?
At first glance there might not be many obvious similarities between former Liverpool star Gerrard and the new Leipzig midfielder with a slight 5'9" frame, but looks can be deceiving. "He was an exemplary player who had it all and battled on the pitch," said Haidara of his role model. "I'm a combative player who works hard in defence and I try to do my best going forward. I've also got a good shot."
Indeed, with surging runs forward, a keen eye for goal and a willingness to get stuck into the tackle, comparisons of their playing styles may not be too wide of the mark. Marco Rose, Haidara's coach at Salzburg, is in no doubt about his former protégé's talents: "He's an excellent footballer, who doesn't worry too much. He just goes out and shows his qualities on the pitch. He has a lot of dynamism, particularly with the ball, and he's willing to work. He has a lot of good attributes."
4) Or the next Keita?
Leipzig coach and sporting director Ralf Rangnick is in no two minds that he has a gem on his hands. "We're delighted to have signed Amadou," he told the club's official website. "We've been following his progress in Salzburg, as he's developed into an absolutely exceptional player there. There aren't many players his age with so much potential. He has all the requirements to follow in Naby Keita's footsteps."
High praise indeed. If Haidara can come close to emulating the 14 goals, 13 assists and game-changing drive of Keita's time at the club, Leipzig will take some stopping.
5) The only way is up
So impressed were Salzburg with Haidara after one season in the first team – albeit one in which he helped them lift the Austrian league title and reach the semi-finals of the Europa League (beating Borussia Dortmund along the way) – that he signed a four-year contract extension in summer 2018. So impressed were Leipzig that they gave him a five-year deal, despite him carrying a serious knee injury at the time of the announcement.
It is easy to see why. He made his senior international debut for Mali on 6 October 2017 in a World Cup qualifying match against Ivory Coast, and has gone on to make a handful of appearances since then. Still not convinced? Haidara was also on the 10-man final shortlist for the inaugural Kopy Trophy (alongside Christian Pulisic) in 2018 that recognises the world's best players under the age of 21. Watch this space!