Kylian Mbappe is undoubtedly one of the most fearsome and adept goal scorers in world football currently. He has been breaking all sorts of records for his age and is on course to set many more. So it takes something really special in order to keep him quiet, that too over the whole 90 minutes. One player who has been able to do that is someone not many have really heard of, and with good reason.
Anel Ahmedhodzic, a 22-year-old centre-back for Malmo FF in the Swedish top-flight, earned plaudits from onlookers after a stellar performance for Bosnia and Herzegovina against France back in April. He is now being touted for a move to a major European club, most likely in the Serie A.
TALENT BEYOND YEARS
One thing that everybody agrees on regarding Ahmedhodzic is how calm and composed he remains no matter the situation. He is an expert in timing tackles, and is known for making challenges with very few fouls given away. Ahmedhodzic was adjudged the Best Defender and Best Young Player of 2020 with Malmo and the reasons are clear to see.
Across Europe, he was the closest under-23 comparison with Liverpool rock Virgil Van Dijk. He won 74% of his aerial duels, had 9.13 long plays without pressure and 0.46 xG buildup P90. These put Ahmedhodzic in the top 89, 91 and 73 percentile of defenders across his category of players. Moreover, he also recorded 100 clearances, 47 interceptions (8th in the Allsvenskan), and succeeded with 21 out of 33 tackles. His 192cm frame and long legs enable him to put his challenges across in a fair but successful manner.
Ett par av Ahmedhodzics fina brytningar från dagens match pic.twitter.com/suRaiDJAXS
— discovery+ sport (@dplus_sportSE) June 15, 2020
Granted the opposition is not the greatest in Sweden but his performances in the Champions League group-stage this season has also been top-notch. He had a 42% success rate in applying pressures, 10 blocks, and 3/5 successful tackles over five matches. Ahmedhodzic has also become a regular for the Bosnia and Herzegovina national team, already racking up 12 caps after making his debut last year.
This Anel Ahmedhodžić tackle
— UEFA Nations League (@EURO2024) December 2, 2021
As mentioned above, he already had a stellar showing against France, but also shone brightly in the other matches too, notably holding Les Bleus to a goalless draw in the reverse fixture. All of this points to a quality player who is slowly getting the recognition he deserves.
ONLY GETTING BETTER
Malmo were recently crowned champions of Sweden for the second consecutive year, and it was no surprise that Ahmedhodzic played a major part in it. He started all 25 of his matches and played the full 90 each time. He had a passing accuracy of 88% and succeeded 70% of the time in tackles.
Malmö’s 22-year-old centre-back Anel Ahmedhodžić .vs. Rangers:
34 passes (74% accuracy).
15 recoveries (!).
11 long passes (45% accuracy).
4 air duels (100% won).
2 ground duels (100% won).
— R.D Football Scout (@RdScouting) August 11, 2021
Though he once again had 100 clearances, his interceptions dropped to 42 along with having one error that led to a goal. Another sign of surety in what Ahmedhodzic has to offer and how his potential is yet to be truly captured comes in the form of how highly he is being talked about in the annals of Football Manager. Several reports have earmarked him as a bargain buy who can really elevate a mid-table club’s defence on the cheap before being sold for a huge sum.
Surely, Malmo will be getting a lot of calls regarding the future plans of Ahmedhodzic next year and with the season having already ended in Sweden, a move in January looks a definite possibility.
WHERE TO NEXT?
Atalanta are said to be leading the race of signing Ahmedhodzic, with Napoli also closely monitoring the defender. The price tag is rumoured to be around 8m euros and both teams could do with a decent centre-back. La Dea have had some injury issues with their defenders which have led to them not being their usual solid self this season yet.
— BH live (@BHlive_official) March 8, 2021
Meanwhile, Napoli are still unsure over their star defender Kalidou Koulibaly whose contract expires in 2023. Ahmedhodzic could also get a look-in from Chelsea, who have four defenders out of contract next year. Though Thiago Silva looks set to stay on, the fate of the other three are far from certain with multiple clubs interested. Newcastle United are also in the market for a central defender but as the Magpies are in a relegation fight, they might want to go for a more proven name in order to help avoid the drop.
What a way to score your first international goal, Anel Ahmedhodžić
— UEFA Nations League (@EURO2024) October 20, 2021
No matter where he lands up, Ahmedhodzic will be an asset to the club and given his young age, will only develop further into a truly world-class defender.