It’s fair to say that Tottenham’s record with buying talented youngsters and developing them into proven Premier League performers isn’t exactly top notch. Just mention the names Giovani Dos Santos, Chris Gunter or John Bostock round White Hart Lane and there may be a few people scratching their heads and shifting their feet uncomfortably at the thought of what went wrong for those individuals.
However, things are improving on that front and under Andre Villas-Boas, some of the new crop seem certain to get a chance, with home grown players like Harry Kane and Steven Caulker on the fringes of the first team this season. One name a little further off regular action but still exciting Spurs fans all the same is that of Souleymane Coulibaly. When a player is labelled the ‘next Didier Drogba’ or whatever the case may be, people tend to take the description with a pinch of salt nowadays, given the tendency to overhype quality young players to levels way beyond normal expectations.
However, with Coulibaly, there’s a few similarities with the former Chelsea legend that are worth picking up on, indeed both play up front and originate from the Ivory Coast, a country fast becoming a hotbed for footballing talent. However, that’s where the comparisons start and finish. In reality, Drogba was a big powerful target man, who troubled Premier League defences with his physical attributes and vicious shooting whereas Coulibaly is very much a different kind of player, he is fast, skilful and has the finishing ability to match. Rather like Thierry Henry, he could easily play out wide, before cutting in to create havoc from the wings.
Signed from Siena as a 16-year-old in 2011 for around £2 million, Tottenham fended off interest from half of Europe to seal this deal. Coulibaly actually came to light in the Fifa U17 World Cup, where he picked up the golden boot after bagging nine goals for the Ivory Coast, a joint tournament record (albeit with former Liverpool flop Florent Sinama Pongolle). The striker fired home a hat-trick against the Brazilians, including a majestic overhead kick and another four against the Danes to show exactly why he’d suddenly become one of the hot properties in the footballing world. The Ivory Coast crashed out to the French in the last 16, meaning Coulibaly didn’t have the chance to improve his impressive record, but by now, the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid were already monitoring his situation.
It came as something of a surprise when Coulibaly chose to move to Spurs then, with all the giants of European football registering an interest. It could prove to be a decent career move for the Ivorian striker though, indeed at White Hart Lane, there could be less pressure from the watchful eyes of the world in comparison to say Old Trafford or the Bernabeu. Coulibaly is yet to make a senior appearance for Spurs, though he did appear in a pre-season friendly against Stevenage this summer, the first time he’s had a run out with the big boys. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Coulibaly isn’t 18 until December and throwing young players into the limelight at a young age doesn’t always pay off, even if it’s just in the League Cup. You only have to look at Danny Rose at Tottenham, who bagged a wonder goal against Arsenal on his Premier League debut to note his lack of serious progression since then, indeed he’s just joined Sunderland on loan to try and kickstart that promising career.
Coulibaly is impressing in the youth ranks with Spurs and it is entirely possible that AVB might introduce him to the substitute’s bench at some point this season. After all, Spurs aren’t exactly blessed in the striking division with just Emmanuel Adebayor, Jermain Defoe and Harry Kane to choose from. It might do the player some good to spend some time out on loan before then though, perhaps after Christmas when he’s just turned 18. The likes of Kyle Walker, Kyle Naughton and Steven Caulker have all impressed away on temporary deals before returning to North London to challenge for their places and a similar arrangement for Tottenham’s latest superstar may prove handy in helping his development in English football.
You’ll struggle to stop the press labelling him the ‘next Didier Drogba’, but once Coulibaly bursts onto the scene, people will soon learn he’s anything but. Drogba will be proud of his fellow countryman though, so watch out for the young striker in the next couple of years. He’s going to be electric.