‘The Boy Has Got Skills’ – Bayer Levekusen’s Sidney Sam

It may have been a long wait for him, but this season 22 year-old flying winger Sidney Sam, a German of Nigerian descent, has finally made his breakthrough in the German top flight after his transfer to the Bay Arena from Hamburg in the summer. After being farmed out on loan to Kaiserslautern for the latter two of his three seasons at Hamburg, the Werkself saw fit to part with 2 million Euros for his services, and he has not let them down, scoring 9 goals and laying on 5 assists in 22 appearances in all competitions this season, which has led his new side to 2nd in the Bundesliga and the knockout stage of the Europa League.

Measuring in at 1.74m (5ft 9ins), 70kg (11st), Sam has been likened by some observers in Germany to the Dutch winger Arjen Robben of Bayern Munich, due to his explosive pace and dribbling style and possibly due to his frequent deployment on the right-wing, cutting inside on his favoured left foot to unleash his fierce shots, which have lead to some spectacular long-range goals. He will probably be likened to a young Ryan Giggs and Gareth Bale too, due to his ability to dribble with the ball at top speed, but due to his shorter height, he is less of a threat in the air than the Welsh duo. Sam himself considers his current footballing idol to be Cristiano Ronaldo, and you can see the influence in the way Sam shoots and gets into goal-scoring situations coming in from both flanks or even being deployed as a striker.

Time will tell whether Sam can continue his fine form in the long-run, but by scoring some eye-catching goals and fitting in well in an expansive attacking style line-up, he has managed to hold down a regular place in Jupp Heynckes’ starting eleven, and he may well make the step-up from the Germany Under 21 side into Jogi Loew’s full national team before long, despite Nigerian counterpart Samson Siasia still harbouring fading hopes of convincing him to pledge his international future to the Super Eagles. The Germans have tended to win these tug-of-war battles lately, and with their trophy-laden history, it isn’t hard to see why.

If one game announced the arrival of Sidney Sam, it was his brace in the 3-1 home win against former loan club Kaiserslautern this season on 8 November 2010. His first was a low drive into the corner from the edge of the box. His second was reminiscent of a famous goal against Leverkusen. With the ball dropping steeply out of the air, Sam unleashed a 30 yard left-footed volley into the top right corner, much like Zinedine Zidane’s famous effort from the Champions League final of 2002 in Glasgow for Real Madrid. Obviously, Zidane’s strike wins as it was his weaker foot and a much bigger occasion but Sam still probably caused many a fan to drop their bratwurst in amazement. On December 11, he proved a point by scoring in a 4-2 away win at former club Hamburg.

Born 31 January 1988 in the northern German town of Kiel, and his first major club was Holstein Kiel from 2002-2004 after starting out at TuS Mettenhof and then Holstein’s rivals Kilia Kiel. In July 2004, he signed for Hamburg, who would be his parent club for six years, but his match time was limited mainly to their second team in the 2006-2008 period. His top flight debut for Hamburg came as a substitute on 20 December 2007, but he only made three more appearances at the club, scoring no goals before his long loan spell at Kaiserslautern and the permanent transfer to Leverkusen. He has represented Germany at Under 19, Under 20 and Under 21 level.

Sam is currently rated at around 5 million Euros, but with a contract until 2015, it would probably take a fee much higher than that to tempt Leverkusen to sell their prodigious young talent. He looks like he could probably play in any of the top leagues in Europe outside of Germany, but at this moment in time he is better off staying at the Bay Arena and playing week in week out to further aid his development, rather than sit on the bench elsewhere with 2 or more players above him in the pecking order for his position. As long as he continues to deliver consistently good performances, then you can be sure that scouts will be flocking to see him in action in both greater number and frequency, and we could have yet another reason to keep an eye on the Bundesliga, which continues to produce some quality footballers.

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