There's more than just a hint of Arjen Robben about Bayer Leverkusen and France U21 international winger Moussa Diaby. bundesliga.com has the scoop on one of the most exciting young wingers around...
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
Country: France U21s (six caps)
The recipient of the 2016 Titi d’Or as the most promising and best talent in the Paris Saint-Germain academy, Diaby spent the second half of 2017/18 on loan at Crotone in Italy, where he made a couple of appearances for the U19s before making his pro debut and first full start against Genoa and Juventus respectively. After returning to PSG to work under former Mainz and Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel, the 5'7" flier went on to make 25 Ligue 1 appearances in 2018/19, scoring four times and averaging an assist every 190 minutes during the club's successful title defence.
A year earlier, Diaby had produced a goal and three assists at the 2018 UEFA European U19 Championship, earning a place in the team of the tournament. His reward for scoring one and assisting two more in four matches at the 2019 FIFA U20 World Cup was a long-term deal with Leverkusen. A debut assist from the bench in the DFB Cup first round was followed by a goal on his first competitive start in a draw with Freiburg, but it was in the Rückrunde that he really hit his straps, serving up three goals and as many assists between Matchdays 18 to 25. What's more, he has clocked the second fastest sprint speed in the 2019/20 Bundesliga, peaking at 22.3 mph.
Watch: Relive Moussa Diaby's maiden Bundesliga goal
Plays a bit like: Arjen Robben
Despite being more like a less squat version of Xherdan Shaqiri in stature, Diaby has more in common with Bayern Munich legend Robben. For starters, the Frenchman is comfortable on his natural left-hand side, or in the inverted wing role synonymous with the Flying Dutchman's 10-year stint in the Bundesliga. He also has dribbling skills to bring opposition defenders to their knees, a cultured left foot and the capability to shatter land speed records.
Don't be surprised if he one day eclipses Rocking Robben as the fastest footballer on the planet. The current record, set by Robben at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, is 23mph.
Did you know?
Diaby joined the Bundesliga ranks on the advice of his former coach at PSG, Tuchel. "He encouraged me to move to the Bundesliga and join Leverkusen, he said it would be a great decision and that I'd learn a lot there," the French tyro revealed after penning a five-year deal through to summer 2024.
"Other big clubs were interested in me, but the overall package [at Leverkusen] - the playing style, the project - fitted in perfectly.
What they're saying
"Moussa can be a really important player for us." - Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky
"Players with his quality don't come along often." - Leverkusen midfielder Kerem Demirbay
"He's one of the biggest French prospects who has the best conditions here in Leverkusen to develop further into an absolute top player.'' - Leverkusen sporting director Simon Rolfes
"I'm sure Moussa Diaby will provide us with great joy thanks to his speed and technique." - Leverkusen managing director Rudi Völler
Keep an eye on...
Diaby lined up alongside another devilishly talented Leverkusen youngster in the 4-0 drubbing of Eintracht Frankfurt on Bundesliga Matchday 25. Paulinho scored two and assisted another on his first full Bundesliga outing, building on his electric displays in Olympic 2020 qualifying with Brazil. The 20-year-old attacker, who joined Bayer in summer 2018 from Vasco da Gama, was involved in more goals (three goals, four assists) than any other player at the tournament.
Edmond Tapsoba has had far less time to settle into his new surrounds, but that hasn't stopped the 21-year-old centre-back from making a seamless transition to life in the Bundesliga. A January 2020 signing from Vitoria Guimaraes, the Burkina Faso international succeeded in keeping Dortmund's Erling Haaland quiet on his Bundesliga debut, and is yet to lose in five German top-flight matches (W4, D1).
Exequiel Palacios also made the mid-season switch, joining Leverkusen from Argentinian giants River Plate. He made his pro debut at 17, but came of age in 2018/19 when he registered four goals and seven assists in 36 first-team appearances for River. A combative midfield forager in the Charles Aranguiz mould, the 21-year-old is already a four-time Argentina international, and has started two of his three Bundesliga outings to date.