Ihlas Bebou has been consistently creating and scoring goals for Hoffenheim since joining in 2019 - and now he’s starting to get the recognition he deserves.
bundesliga.com gives you the lowdown on the Togo speedster, who grew up idolising a Brazilian superstar and is now bringing plenty of his own flair to the Bundesliga.
Bebou was born in Togo in West Africa but at the age of 11 he moved to Germany - Düsseldorf, to be specific - with his family. He was still a teenager when he joined local club Fortuna Düsseldorf in 2011, making his professional debut in a Bundesliga 2 match against Dynamo Dresden in September 2013. He became a regular in the second division in the 2015/16 season - registering five goals and 10 assists in 2016/17 - and Hannover brought him to the Bundesliga in August 2017. Bebou had already been capped by Togo in September 2016, and would soon prove his worth in the German top flight as well. The wiry attacker finished with five goals in 30 appearances in his first year in the Bundesliga. He had four goals in 12 starts in 2018/19, but an injury picked up in November 2018 kept him out for much of the season.
Watch: Ihlas Bebou nets a hat-trick against Greuther Fürth
Bebou had proven himself an elite-level forward, though, and he made a deadline-day move to Hoffenheim in August 2019 following Hannover's relegation from the top division. The 6'0" attacker scored six times in 2019/20 to help Hoffenheim finish sixth, and then got a career-high nine goals and eight assists in 32 appearances in 2020/21. As a result, Bebou was voted Hoffenheim’s Player of the Year for 2020/21 – with a 67 percent share. The speedy frontman continued the following season, being named Hoffenheim’s Player of the Month for both October and November 2021 on his way to another six Bundesliga goals in the first half of 2021/22, including a maiden top-flight hat-trick in the 6-3 rout of Greuther Fürth, and looks to be en route for his best campaign ever. In December the same year, Bebou signed a new contract that ties him to Hoffenheim until June 2026.
Plays a bit like: Sadio Mane
Bebou shares the African roots of Liverpool's Senegal international forward, but there are more bonds that tie the pair. The duo share that happy blend of being the model teammate - Hoffenheim sporting director Alexander Rosen has hailed Bebou as an "outstanding team player on and off the pitch" - as well as possessing the ruthless streak required in front of goal.
He may not have quite the ball skills of boyhood icon Ronaldinho (more on that to come), but his assists record shows he possesses an iron-clad first touch, passing range and vision on a par with Mane's, and his speed of thought is matched by his fleet of foot: he clocked 21.7 miles per hour in 2021/22, which makes him one of the 20 fastest players in the league. His physique - some four inches bigger than Mane - makes him a potent package for any Bundesliga defender to try and handle.
Did you know?
Bebou was a BIG Ronaldinho fan as a kid. "I watched a lot of videos from the time when he was still at Barcelona, and of course I tried to do some of his tricks," said a wide-eyed Bebou. "His coolness on the pitch, the way he got the crowd going, his dribbles…wow!"
What they're saying
"Ihlas has developed into one of the most dangerous and sought-after strikers in the Bundesliga over the past two-and-half years… his explosive drive, outstanding physicality and strong ball control make him extremely difficult to defend." - Rosen after Bebou signed a new deal in December 2021
"I found the perfect mix of support, trust and good training opportunities here." – Bebou on signing his new contract
"He's a super character, he keeps working, and he's hugely important for us as a team." — Hoffenheim coach Sebastian Hoeneß
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