Earlier today, Italian Sky Sport reporter Gianluca Di Marzio confirmed that Chelsea’s deal for Augsburg left-back Abdul Baba Rahman had been completed. With there being an obsession with transfer news in this day and age, which almost seems to overshadow the actual football, obviously there was endless speculation regarding where the player will end up. Roma had previously been reported as a potential destination for the 21-year-old Ghanaian.
Rahman started out his career at Dreams FC, where his manager was the owner of the club, before moving to one of Ghana’s most famous football clubs, Asante Kotoko. He obviously showed a lot of promise in his single season at Kotoko, because German second division side Greuther Furth were convinced enough to pay £105,000 at the end of a 20-game loan stint from Kotoko.
At the end of the initial loan stint, Rahman participated in the 2013 U20 World Cup, although tactical circumstances meant he couldn’t fully show off his talents. During the tournament, he was positioned behind Frank Acheampong. The left winger caused havoc playing as a classic wide man, taking on people close to the touchline and creating chances for his team mates. However, this meant Rahman often didn’t get the space to overlap and thus be the star of the show.
After the U20 World Cup, Rahman embarked on his second season for the club, missing out on promotion to the German Bundesliga with a play-off defeat against Hamburger SV.
Although his name may be familiar on social media timelines, the average Premier League fan may know little about him. That may be because unfortunately for the owners of thousands of Twitter accounts that fuel the speculation, Rahman is neither a midfielder nor a striker; otherwise, comparisons with Michael Essien, Yaya Toure or Didier Drogba would obviously be apt, and maybe some sort of reference to the players ‘formidable pace and power’. This means we might actually have to explore what he does in a little bit of depth.
His time at Augsburg has seen him stationed behind Tobias Werner, and at international level he plays behind Andre Ayew. Both are intelligent players who drift infield to loom for ball as well as get into the box to score goals. They also aren’t necessarily the fastest (though for some strange reason people like to make out that Ayew is Forrest Gump), which means Rahman often has to sprint forwards from deep positions to provide width. Because of his stature and speed he can be hard to stop.
However, he’s not just a hard runner. He has good technical ability and thus dribbles like a player who could be utilised further ahead unlike other full-backs who get forward with great speed and purpose but haven’t got the ability to do much with the ball. He’s also a great crosser of the ball and can send in accurate crosses into the box, rather than just hopefully floating balls into the box, as demonstrated by his cross for Andre Ayew’s equaliser against South Africa in the 2015 Cup of Nations.
As is almost expected of young full-backs, he isn’t great defensively, though he’s no Kyle Walker. When somebody gets in behind him, he seems to panic and starts swiping at heels and tugging shirts and so commits some silly fouls. You often feels he’s about to give away a penalty. However, he’s a relatively young player and he’ll be coached by Mourinho. Remember, Ashley Cole was primarily an attacking left back before becoming a more solid player under the same coach.
He also tries to over complicate things a little in attack when he could be a bit more direct given the speed he has. Finally, another thing he could do to add a surprise factor into his game is to switch it up occasionally and go for the underlapping run, because as mentioned previously, he’s difficult to stop when he gets going and would probably create a few more goals or draw penalties.
Cesar Azpilicueta is easily better defensively than Rahman at the moment and nobody really knows if Mourinho will be willing to forgo the solidity he prizes so much for the more adventurous player that Rahman is.
Some Ghanaians are concerned that Baba will end up like his compatriot Christian Atsu, although their cases are quite different. Rahman has a full season under his belt at a top league, and while there’s a ridiculous amount of young attacking midfielders, many of them capped at international level, the case isn’t the same for left backs.
Ghana haven’t had a player who has been a worldwide star since Michael Essien. Rahman could easily be that player.