Tunisia international Ellyes Skhiri has been running things - almost literally - for Cologne. - © Lukas Schulze/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images
Tunisia international Ellyes Skhiri has been running things - almost literally - for Cologne. - © Lukas Schulze/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images

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


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: 26
Club: Cologne
Position: Midfielder
Country: Tunisia (40 caps/3 goals)

Key stats

Skhiri was born in the French town of Lunel, in the Herault region, and he had his first pair of football boots on at the age of four, when he joined the town's Gallia Club.

When he was 15, he was spotted by talent scouts of the region's largest professional club Montpellier and he joined their 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 first goal came on 27 February 2016 in a 3-0 win over Lille.

Ellyes Skhiri played 133 times and scored 10 goals for Montpellier in France. - SYLVAIN THOMAS/AFP via Getty Images

Before signing for Cologne in 2019, he played 133 games for Montpellier and was their vice-captain when he moved to the Bundesliga.

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 and scored the brace against Borussia Dortmund which ended a nine-month wait for a win.

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.

In early 2022, Skhiri also participated in his second Africa Cup of Nations with Tunisia, having reached the semi-finals of the 2019 edition. He also played for his country in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Watch: Skhiri's brace earns Cologne win in Dortmund

Did you know?

Run, Skhiri, run! Or should it be Forrest? 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 even greater perspective, only three other Cologne players ran over 200km(!) last term (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.

Plays a bit like: Joshua Kimmich

A lung-bursting holding midfielder, Skhiri's strengths lie in his defensive resilience and strong work ethic. Indeed, in the 2020/21 Bundesliga season, no player ran as much as Skhiri did or made as many tackles as the Tunisian made either. His commitment and determination draw parallels with Bayern Munich and Germany midfielder Joshua 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 Ellyes Skhiri, like here against Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski, in 2020/21. - Thomas Eisenhuth/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images

What they are saying

"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.

"Cologne have taken a real interest in me and fully convinced me of the move. [They] are a big and exciting club with plenty of tradition, which I can identify with really well." – Ellyes Skhiri after joining Cologne.