Ones to Watch; 2022-23 | Number 8: Ibrahima Bamba
In a football world filled with countless stars of today, so many of us are curious about who is waiting in the wings. That search for that next wunderkind; a youngster who has the potential to make us stand up and marvel at how they are masters of their craft despite their tender age, is always on the minds of millions of fans around the world.
With this in mind, we at 101 Great Goals continue our weekly series that takes a look at U21 players across the world during the 2022-23 season. Some of them you will have no doubt heard of, while we hope to bring you a few new names to spark your curiosities every now and then.
Fact File & Data Picture
Bamba overall data profile (Holding Midfielder) via FBRef
Bamba defensive actions via FBRef
Bamba possession metrics via FBRef
Bamba passing metrics via FBRef
Background and Overall Assessment
Last week our weekly look into the next generation of young talent across all corners of the football world took us to Yorkshire to assess the burgeoning talent that is Leeds United and Italian international forward Wilfried Gnonto as the former FC Zurich and Inter Milan diminutive wide man has taken the club by storm since his summer arrival.
We decided to stay in the Italian sphere of influence this week, as another young Italian is making waves in a quiet corner in the top flight of Portuguese football; Vitoria de Guimaraes' 20-year-old Ibrahima Bamba.
Much like Gnonto at Zurich, Bamba has taken an alternative route to progress his young career after first coming through the youth ranks at early Serie A giants and hometown side F.C. Pro Vercelli 1892. Bamba then moved to Vitoria in 2020 before completing his education in Os Conquistadores' B team for another two years but still began to break into the first-team setup last season with spot appearances.
His continued development has led to his rapid rise in the senior setup under manager Joao Miguel da Cunha Teixeira during the current Liga Portugal Bwin, with Bamba a first-choice option in the XI at both center-back and in a holding midfield role on all fronts for the Portuguese outfit across 23 appearances to date.
Already catching the eye of Italian head coach Roberto Mancini, Bamba has been playing at the full professional for just less than a year, and in that sense, remains a raw talent that comes with a very high ceiling, much in the way Gnonto jumped at his chance in the same vein during his spell in Switzerland.
Given the unpolished nature of his talent profile, Bamba's age offers plenty of scope to fine-tune his contributions away from the defensive side of the ball, but what is most impressive already is his capability in defensive actions (as seen above in his overall data profile). This comes as both a holding midfielder and at center-back with a recent performance in a 3-2 away loss against Gil Vicente showcasing not only this side of his game but also solid distribution.
Bamba action report vs Gil Vicente via Wyscout
As a modern player profile, Bamba's capability in defense and also as a shield to the back four is credible, and certainly could be an interesting option for a number of clubs that are currently in the market for a player of his potential.
Chiefly, Bamba could offer a viable pathway for Arsenal to continue adding depth in quality as the Gunners look to bag their first Premier League win in nearly twenty years while also being one of the heavyweights in the Europa League, with the Italian's release clause being a reported - and affordable -EUR30m.
Other clubs linked with Bamba this season, despite the player only playing senior football for less than one season, come in the vein of Atalanta Bergamo, Club Brugge, and Paris Saint-Germain. From a development standpoint, both Atalanta and Brugge offer excellent pathways to slow-burn development, with Brugge developing a myriad of top talent in recent seasons while Bergamo's penchant for finding talent remains a hallmark of the club's story in Serie A, and their reliance on a back-three could certainly offer the player the right platform in relation to Vitoria's current tactical schematic.
If pathways of current - and former - Vitoria benefactors such as Marcus Edwards and Edmond Tapsoba are anything to go by, Ibrahima Bamba could be in line for big things in the not-too-distant future.