Who is Moussa Diaby: Bayer Leverkusen's versatile French winger?
There's more than just a hint of Arjen Robben about Bayer Leverkusen and France international winger Moussa Diaby. bundesliga.com has the scoop on one of the most exciting young wingers around...
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
Country: France (eight 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 was clocked the second fastest sprint speed in the 2019/20 Bundesliga, peaking at 22.3 mph.
Watch: Moussa Diaby's best Bundesliga moments
He kicked on in his second season in the Bundesliga, breaking into double figures for assists (12) and scoring four goals. He picked some big games to turn on the style in two, supplying one goal and an assist in a 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund and the same combination in a 3-0 win over Rhine rivals Cologne.
But it was the 2021/22 season in which Diaby really left a marker, and earned a long-overdue first call-up to the France national team. With 13 goals, he was Leverkusen's second-highest scorer behind Patrik Schick, while that haul included his first career hat-trick, in a 5-1 win over Augsburg. He also set up 12 more goals and thus contributed directly to 25 goals - no wonder that got the attention of France coach Didier Deschamps, with a FIFA World Cup on the horizon.
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
"He is able to evolve in different positions. In his club, he plays a little more on the sides. This year, it's a little more to the left than to the right, with freedom too. He has the option of using both feet. He's versatile, in addition to his ability to accelerate, he's rather skillful, he has a large volume of play. This desire that he has, the France team needs players of this type there too." - France coach Didier Deschamps.
"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's former managing director Rudi Völler
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