He was dubbed as Naby Keita's successor and is a fan of Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, but what else is there to know about RB Leipzig midfielder Amadou Haidara?
bundesliga.com dusts off the microscope for a closer look at the Mali international...
1) An 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. 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 Salzburg in 2016, but initially went out on loan to second division feeder side FC Liefering to help him acclimatise to European football.
2) A UEFA Youth League winner
Haidara scored two goals in 25 appearances for Liefering before being called back to Salzburg and slotting into the U19 side. He was in the starting line-up for every game of the UEFA Youth League knockout rounds in early 2017, having faced future Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho and his Manchester City side in the play-offs. Salzburg beat Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona en route to the final, where they overcame Benfica 2-1 to lift the club's first title at U19 level.
Although he was just 19 at the time, that was not Haidara's first taste of top-level continental football. He was also a mainstay in the Mali side that reached the FIFA U17 World Cup final in Chile in 2015, which they ended up losing 2-0 to Nigeria.
3) The next Gerrard?
As well as former Manchester City and Cote d'Ivoire midfielder Yaya Toure, Haidara looked up to former Liverpool captain Gerrard. "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. Current Borussia Dortmund head coach Marco Rose - who worked with Haidara at Salzburg - was in no doubt about his former player'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."
Haidara showed as much at Salzburg, scoring 13 goals in 83 matches for them during his time in Austria. He got on the scoresheet three times in the 2017/18 UEFA Europa League, a season when his side - with fellow Malian and good friend Diadie Samassekou also in their ranks - beat Dortmund on their way to the semi-finals.
4) Or the next Keita?
Former Leipzig coach and sporting director Ralf Rangnick was pretty certain he had a gem on his hands after Haidara moved to Germany in January 2019. "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."
Like Haidara, Keita arrived in Germany as a two-time Austrian champion. He left for Liverpool in 2018 after helping Leipzig finish as Bundesliga runners-up in 2016/17. His successor helped the easterners match that feat in 2020/21 with some similar game-changing runs from midfield.
Watch: Haidara got a debut goal for Leipzig
5) At Leipzig for the long term
Leipzig were so sure of Haidara's potential that they gave him a five-year deal, despite the Malian carrying a serious knee injury at the time of the announcement. He soon started repaying that faith, scoring on his debut in a 5-0 rout of Hertha Berlin in March 2019.
The energetic central midfielder, who made his senior international debut for Mali on 6 October 2017 in a World Cup qualifying match against the Cote d'Ivoire, had to be patient in his first season in Germany, however.
"Even though I didn't play that much last season I continued to work hard and ensured I stayed strong mentally," he told bundesliga.com in October 2020. "It's true that it wasn't easy at the beginning. I kept working hard in the knowledge that I'd get my chance one day to show the coach that he could trust me."
Having earned the confidence of Julian Nagelsmann, Haidara scored three times in 31 league matches in his first full season in the Bundesliga. A two-time DFB Cup runner-up with the club, he signed a new contract - valid until 2025 - in May 2021.
"He is characterised by his irrepressible will to win and his passion, coupled with good technique and understanding of the game," said Leipzig technical director Christopher Vivell at the time.
Haidara himself promised he had plenty more to give, and he has given something back too. In 2021 he helped launch a foundation that looks out for less privileged children, as well as running summer football camps for kids in Bamako.
For those looking to follow in his footsteps, though, his advice is simple. "You have to work hard," the Malian told bundesliga.com. "It's true that your ability plays a role but you have to work hard in order to progress. Always listen to the coach and work hard. It pays off."
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