PROSPECT | Yunus Musah

When you start 10 games for one of the biggest football clubs in Spain before your eighteenth birthday, there is no question that there is something about you that has caught the eye. Obviously, many precocious youngsters have had bright early starts to their careers only to fade, but such outcomes say nothing about what was seen in these players in the first place. At a club like Valencia where talent is never scarce, it takes a lot for a player to join the first team and immediately nail down a starting spot with a new manager. This is nothing to Yunus Musah though, he is a player who relishes breaking records. It is even more impressive that Yunus has not once looked out of place in that Valencia team, and never looks to be overwhelmed by pressure, whether facing the likes of Real Madrid or Atlético Madrid, or the likes of the usually brutal Getafe.

Yunus Musah joined Valencia’s B team in 2019 on a free transfer and it has only taken a year for the youngster to find his way into the Valencia first team and then starting XI. Valencia manager, Javi Gracia, who joined in the summer, has been so impressed by Yunus that he has made him a guaranteed starter no matter the opponent, in a team in which the likes of Guedes, Kangin Lee, Cheryshev and a few more established players have failed to hold down a starting spot. Yunus has started nine of the 10 games he has featured in, and has so far only failed to appear in one game for the club. His performances have been disciplined and greatly beneficial to the team, and he has often shown flashes of brilliance as well. His role in the team has required a lot of tactical discipline on his part, and he has shown a maturity so far that belies his years.

Yunus is capable of playing in multiple roles, notably in central midfield, wide as a traditional winger or a further forward. His range of abilities, from his fine dribbling skills to his ball-carrying and ball retention, means that he has the tools to consistently deliver in these roles and positions. So far, Gracia has used him on the right side of Valencia’s midfield, in a 4-4-2. Yunus’ role there has been similar to the role played by Carlos Soler, another player who plays multiple roles in midfield and further forward, for the past few years. Yunus has less of a license to roam forward compared to whoever plays on the other wing and is often given a lot of defensive responsibilities, as he is required to help out whoever plays at right-back for the club – whether it is Thierry Correia or Daniel Wass. That defensive responsibility has not prevented Yunus from showing his attacking abilities as he has constantly driven Valencia forward down his side, beaten loads of defenders, and even scored a goal – a brilliant run and finish against Getafe. That goal made him the youngest non-Spanish player in Valencia’s history to score for the club.

Valencia often look to soak in pressure and launch quick counter attacks. It is here that one of Yunus’ best qualities shine through. He is not a player that likes to take unnecessary touches and he also has the ability to burst forward with the ball and get past opponents into dangerous positions. His movement off the ball is smart and his ability to drive transitions is akin to prime Yaya Toure. It is really hard to get the ball off him when he is going on those mazy, quickfire runs, and he has a unique combination of solid technical skills, football intelligence and raw pace and power. When Yunus is on the move, everything and everyone around him follows his lead. Another thing Yunus does very well is play penetrative passes to the right players. His decision-making is great for his age, and his ability to make the right pass is one thing currently understated about his game. It is not as easy to notice because of how well he does so many other things.

Yunus has also already made his international debut, playing two friendlies for the United States of America (USA). In those games, he played in a double pivot in central midfield. There is a battle currently going on for his international future as he is eligible to play for four different national teams – The United States of America, England, Italy and Ghana. The appearances for USA were non-competitive so he can still switch allegiance. He already played for England at youth level and they have been vocal about wanting him to commit his international future to England, despite his appearances for USA. It remains to be seen what he decides, but it is telling of his incredible talent and what he has shown so far that the battle for his international future is heating up while he is still a teenager.

The kid is brilliant, the kid is special, and anybody who has eyes can see it. Despite all the talk about other more known youngsters across Spain, it is Yunus who has seen his stock experience the steepest rise this season. Valencia tied him down to a long-term deal on December 4, with the 18-year-old reaching an agreement to extend his contract with Los Che until June 2026. There is still a lot to come from the youngster, but it is probably not a wise decision to bet against him reaching the pinnacle of the sport and/or becoming world class. For now, we can only wait and see.

Astorre S. Cerebronè

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