Tomos Knox on the pacy left-back whose moves have left opponents - and potential suitors - wrong-footed...
The 60-second story
Rising from second-tier side Dreamz FC to an impressive season with Ghanaian big boys Asante Kotoko, Abdul Baba Rahman showed enough maturity (and pace) to attract Eurogiants like Real Madrid, Arsenal, Manchester City and Parma – but opted instead to join newly-promoted Bundesliga side Greuther Fürth in summer 2012.
- Place of birth Tamale, Ghana
- Date of birth July 2 1994
- Height 5ft 10.5in
- Position Left-back, left-winger
- Clubs 2011-12 Asante Kotoko (25 apps, 0 goals) 2012-14 Greuther Furth (48, 2) 2014- Augsburg (17, 0)
- International Ghana (5 caps)
Explaining that his new club gave him “the best conditions in which to develop my career”, Rahman has indeed continued to evolve. Switching to Augsburg domestically, the pacy left-back has been promoted to Ghana's senior team, and his Africa Cup of Nations performances are being monitored by Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Chelsea. And he's still only 20.
Why you need to know him
He moves quickly: not just blessed with natural pace, Rahman is also quite prepared to make the right transfer at the right time. That's not to label him mercenary: when Greuther Fürth were relegated in 2013 despite strong performances in his 20 top-flight appearances, he ignored alleged interest from Real and Arsenal to help his side chase promotion.
When that didn't happen – the Shamrocks finished third and lost in the play-offs – he returned to the Bundesliga with Augsburg, and has appeared in every game as the unfashionable Fuggerstädter sit sixth in the table, on course for their finest-ever season. Rahman has been a key part of that, averaging 2.9 interceptions, 3.5 clearances 1.4 dribbles and 4.8 tackles per game – the Bundesliga's highest tackle rate.
Having first played for Ghana Under-20s at just 16-years-old, Rahman helped them to the bronze medal at the 2013 U20 World Cup. Last September he made his senior debut in a Cup of Nations qualifier against Togo, bagging an assist in a 3-2 win, and has since cemented his place in the Black Stars' team.
Rahman’s main asset is his pace. His powerful overlapping runs from left-back can be devastatingly effective, and his ability to cross even more so. Despite lacking muscle, Rahman’s ability to rob opponents of the ball is a danger, and his tendency to launch a counter-attack to catch teams on the break immediately after making a challenge is remarkably useful. He could be another Gareth Bale, who moved forward after playing for years as a left-back at Tottenham; Rahman’s acceleration, crossing and first touch are good enough to make him a potential winger, a role he has filled on occasion.
If Rahman was playing in England, he would be told to bulk up. At a shade under 5ft 11in, he's average size for an adult male, but shorter than many modern footballers; moreover, if an opponent does get past him, it’s usually by outmuscling him. Also, while his attacking runs can be highly efficient, he does often leave his position prone to a counter-attack. The irony in his playing style is that while he is capable of tearing defences apart with his phenomenal pace, he is often caught on the break because of his poor recovery and positioning. His tendency to attack makes many wonder why he is playing in defence at all.
Fellow Ghana international Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu heaped praise on the talented defender after an AFCON qualifying game against Guinea in October, saying: “I know what he has been doing in Germany for his club and he is improving. So you could see that when I scored I went to him to shine his boots.” Frank Acheampong of Anderlecht in Belgium, who played with Rahman during the 2013 U20 World Cup, was also complimentary of the Ghanaian, saying his former colleague is “the best I have played with”.
Did you know?
Rahman likes a derby. He made his Asante Kotoko debut in 2011 against Hearts of Oak, in Ghana’s biggest grudge game - his solid display impressed fans and team-mates alike. His final game for Greuther Fürth was a 5-1 derby win over Nürnberg, in which he won a penalty and scored twice, his only senior goals to date.
- Shooting 4
- Heading 6
- Passing 7
- Tackling 8
- Pace 9
- Dribbling 7
- Creativity 6
- Work-rate 6
What happens next?
For now, Baba Rahman remains an Augsburg player. But with a number of European giants watching him at the Cup of Nations – Real Madrid are still being mentioned, with Napoli and Borussia Dortmund now also namechecked – it's realistically only a matter of time before another club lures the talented youngster away. He may not be the finished product but at 20-years-old he is already the most promising Ghanaian of recent times, one of the Bundesliga's most effective players – and potentially capable of a career-changing, value-raising switch forward.
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