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Tunisia international Ellyes Skhiri has been running the midfield engine room for Cologne. - © Imago
Tunisia international Ellyes Skhiri has been running the midfield engine room for Cologne. - © Imago
bundesliga

Ellyes Skhiri: Who is Cologne's Tunisian running man?

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With as many miles under his belt to rival a long-distance runner, bundesliga.com takes a look at where those worn-down soles have taken Cologne and Tunisia midfielder Ellyes Skhiri…

Ellyes Skhiri

Age: 27
Club: Cologne
Position: Midfielder
Country: Tunisia (50 caps/3 goals)

Key stats

Born in the French town of Lunel, in the Herault region, Skhiri started playing for the town's Gallia Club, aged four. When he was 15, he joined Montpellier's youth academy, eventually making his first-team starting debut on his 20th birthday against Lens. Just a month later, he signed his first professional contract, while his maiden goal came on 27 February 2016, in a 3-0 win over Lille.

Skhiri made his name with Montpellier in France. - SYLVAIN THOMAS/AFP via Getty Images

Skhiri put pen to paper at Cologne in 2019, having played 133 games for Montpellier and acted as vice-captain. Only injury prevented Skhiri from playing a part in all 34 of Cologne's games in each of his first two seasons for the Billy Goats, though he put the seal on survival in the 2021 relegation play-off win over Holstein Kiel, before scooping the Tunisian Player of the Year award.

Injuries and illness restricted him to just 10 games in the first half of the 2021/22 season, but with three goals, he was already more than halfway to matching his best return of five goals from the 2020/21 campaign. The six-footer's 10th Bundesliga goal helped the Billy Goats secure a crucial win over Mainz, as Stefan Baumgart's team reached the UEFA Europa Conference League group stage, via the play-offs. And he ended the calendar year by making his 100th appearance in the German top flight.

Watch: Skhiri's brace earns Cologne win in Dortmund

In early 2022, Skhiri also participated in his second Africa Cup of Nations with Tunisia, having reached the semi-finals of the 2019 edition. Second only to Joshua Kimmich for distance covered during the first half of the 2022/23 Bundesliga campaign, rumour has it he opted to run rather than fly to the 2022 World Cup finals, where he brought up his 50th international cap.

Did you know?

Run, Skhiri, run! In the 2020/21 season, Skhiri left everybody in his wake in the Bundesliga, covering 246.2 miles (396.23 kilometres) – a full five miles (8km) more than his nearest challenger to that crown, Maximilian Eggestein.

To put that into context, only three other Cologne players ran over 200km (Ondrej Duda, Marius Wolf and Elvis Rexhbecaj), meaning the Tunisian basically ran twice as much as the majority of his teammates.

With an average of over eight miles per match (13km), he would have easily broken the 250-mile or 400km barrier had he not missed two of the 34 games due to injury. He also topped the Bundesliga charts for challenges won.

Plays a bit like: Joshua Kimmich

A lung-bursting holding midfielder, Skhiri's strengths lie in his defensive resilience and strong work ethic. His commitment and determination draw parallels with Bayern Munich and Germany midfielder Kimmich, who is widely considered as one of the best in that position.

The similarity does not end there either: Skhiri made his Montpellier debut as a full-back and then moved into the heart of the defence, before shifting into a holding midfielder role. Sound familiar?

No other player made as many tackles as Skhiri (l.) in 2020/21. - Thomas Eisenhuth/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images

What they are saying

"Ellyes is ambitious. He's a team player, who always gives his all." - Cologne head coach Steffen Baumgart

"Ellyes is a big and strong player who covers a lot of ground and has a great vision and passing gam. Although he's already picked up a lot of experience, he's still got room for improvement at 24 years old and we're delighted to have been able to sign him." – Cologne's former sporting director Armin Veh.