Mahmoud Dahoud: The Pochettino-targeted starlet who could become a complete midfielder
The 60-second story
- Date of birth: Jan 1, 1996
- Place of birth: Amuda, Syria
- Height: 5ft 9in
- Position: Central midfielder
- Current club: Borussia Monchengladbach (38 apps, 4 goals)
- International: Germany U21 (2 caps, 0 goals)
Virtually unknown as recently as August, Mahmoud Dahoud has taken the Bundesliga by storm this season. The slight-of-frame midfielder, who has an outstanding work rate, sublime technical skills and a terrific range of passing, has been at the heart of almost every Borussia Monchengladbach move this term.
Dahoud is one of the most gifted young players currently plying his trade in Germany, with Tottenham the latest club to be linked with a summer €35m move for the 20-year-old.
Why you need to know him
Had everything gone according to plan, Dahoud would have made his breakthrough last season. Ever since joining the outstanding Gladbach academy from Fortuna Dusseldorf in 2010, he was considered a huge talent by youth coaches.
Borussia's successful Swiss coach Lucien Favre, who nurtured Dahoud carefully, called him up to train with the first-team squad as early as 2013, and handed him his debut in a Europa League qualifying fixture against Sarajevo in August 2014.
A serious thigh injury put the midfielder out for months, though, and Dahoud only started featuring on a regular basis this term. Following the departure of World Cup winner Cristoph Kramer to Bayer Leverkusen, Favre intended to gradually introduce Dahoud in his place, including him among the substitutes in Gladbach's first four Bundesliga games.
Favre unexpectedly resigned soon after, however, with his replacement Andre Schubert promoting Dahoud faster than the more meticulous Favre had intended to. The midfielder was included in the starting XI against Augsburg for Schubert's first game in charge; Gladbach were leading 4-0 within 21 minutes, Dahoud helping himself to one of the goals. He hasn't looked back since.
With four goals and five asissts to his name so far, the figures look great for the box-to-box midfielder. He was particularly impressive in the 5-1 defeat of Eintracht Frankfurt in November, scoring one, assisting another and winning a penalty as well. He was then instrumental in the sensational 3-1 win over Bayern Munich – the first defeat Pep Guardiola's team suffered this term - and played with great confidence against Juventus and Manchester City in the Champions League.
In short, not only did Dahoud seamlessly replace Kramer in central midfield, he's arguably been an upgrade. The 20-year-old is far more dangerous going forward, while his passing is more adventurous and his smooth movement a joy to watch. It's little wonder he's so popular with Gladbach fans and neutral German football lovers alike.
He's clever when it comes to distributing the ball as well, knowing when to keep it by playing short passes and when to release longer balls to set his side up for a counter-attack
For starters, Dahoud covers an average of almost 13 kilometres per game. "I need to move," he once explained. "If I stop, I feel like I am out of the game."
Those runs are generally purposeful, both with and without the ball. Dahoud is always looking to receive possession and is adept at finding spaces between the lines. He's clever when it comes to distributing the ball as well, knowing when to keep it by playing short passes and when to release longer balls to set his side up for a counter-attack.
His defensive work is excellent, too: Dahoud likes a tackle, recovers a lot of loose balls and made 10 interceptions on his full Champions League debut against Manchester City. Add a great shot from distance and quality dribbling skills into the mix and you've got a complete box-to-box midfielder in the making.
Naturally, Dahoud is still far from the finished article. He's still inexperienced, and his tendency to dribble too close to his own penalty area has led to some problems – Gladbach have conceded at least two goals this season because of his mistakes. Some might say that he's not yet physically strong enough, but bulking up too much could harm his agility and light-footedness.
Manager Schubert is a fan and expects Dahoud to improve further in the coming years. "He's got a real engine and is a willing runner, but he has to be more efficient and learn to ease off at times and also recognise that he doesn’t always have to run. That will come with experience," the Gladbach boss said.
Others agree. "Dahoud has a lot of potential. We all know that Gladbach nurture talents who can become world-class stars," said Lothar Matthaus, former world-class star who was nurtured at Gladbach.
Did you know...
Born in Amuda, a town with a Kurdish majority close to the Turkish border, he was taken to Germany as an infant by his parents, who flew from the Assad regime in 1996
Dahoud is the first Syria-born footballer to play in the Bundesliga. Born in Amuda, a town with a Kurdish majority close to the Turkish border, he was taken to Germany as an infant by his parents, who flew from the Assad regime in 1996. That has brought a lot of attention in the midst of the current Syria refugee crisis, but Dahoud himself is not interested in talking politics.
Football is where his focus lies, and he feels German through and through: after representing his adopted homeland at youth level, the senior national team is the natural next step, though Euro 2016 has almost certainly come too soon.
What happens next?
That's a huge question. Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl stated in February: "Dahoud is not for sale. We are a hungry club, and we need every good player." The contract he signed until 2018 has no release clause, but a very significant offer might change Eberl's mind.
Tottenham's bid reportedly includes a clause that would see Dahoud loaned back to the German club next season, while Bild have reported that Guardiola is considering taking the prodigy to Manchester City next season.
Manchester United could also be in the frame, while Borussia Dortmund would likely be interested should Ilkay Gundogan depart this summer. For Dahoud himself, though, it would probably be wise to remain with Schubert for at least another season.