Before Ramadan Sobhi even arrived in England two summers ago, he’d already developed a preceding reputation – one that seemed too good to be true.
A promising return of 17 goals in 71 appearances across all competitions for Al Ahly had earned him the monikers ‘Egyptian Messi’ and ‘Ramadona’, so after signing for Stoke City instead of one of the Premier League’s top clubs in a £5million deal, the immediate assumption was one of such lofty comparisons being more to sell transfer rumours than give a genuine evaluation of the winger’s ability and potential.
No doubt, one-and-a-half seasons into his Premier League career, Sobhi is still a gigantic chasm away from being anywhere near parity with two of the greatest talents South America has ever produced. He’s not even a guaranteed starter for a Stoke City side currently in the relegation zone and averaging just a shade more than one goal per match in the top flight.
But two goals in two appearances against West Brom and Huddersfield last month highlighted the steady progress Sobhi has made over the last 18 months, especially by the standards of a 20-year-old undertaking a drastic transition from Middle Eastern to Premier League football while plying his trade with one of the division’s most turbulent sides. That’s perhaps why Jurgen Klopp has taken an interest in Sobhi, according to Sky Sports’ Peter O’Rourke.
— Pete O'Rourke (@SportsPeteO) January 2, 2018
There’s little doubt the Liverpool boss has an eye for a player ready to elevate his game to the next level. That’s exactly what Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Georginio Wijnaldum have done at Liverpool, and it’s exactly how he managed to develop a Borussia Dortmund team of young, emerging talents into back-to-back Bundesliga winners and Champions League finalists. Clearly, Klopp sees something worthwhile in Sobhi too.
Of course, it’s still very early days and any move for the 19-cap Egyptian is far more likely to come in the summer than by the end of the January transfer window, not least because the Potters find themselves in a relegation battle. But combined with his two goals, Sobhi boasts two statistical returns this season that particularly stand out as signs of real promise – the grit and determination to average 1.4 tackles per ninety minutes, alongside the natural flair to complete 2.1 dribbles in the same time frame.
Prolific dribblers are always exciting talents, simply because they can manipulate the ball so well and cause so much devastation when they reach top speed, but it’s the combination with industry when out of possession that will impress Klopp most.
Don’t expect immediate movement on this one, but don’t be surprised if we see Sobhi given a chance at Anfield in the near future either; with figures in the transfer market spiralling out of control, it makes far more sense for Liverpool to invest in the young winger early before his price-tag goes through the roof.