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Kamaldeen Sulemana: Ghana wonderkid with 'more potential than Neymar' on Man Utd's radar

13:00 BST 07/05/2021
Kamaldeen Sulemana NXGN GFX
The 19-year-old forward has caught the eye in Danish football for FC Nordsjaelland, with his asking price already set at around £10 million

While injuries limited his overall impact, it is fair to say that Ajax midfielder Mohammed Kudus has been one of Africa's breakout stars over the course of the European season.

Once back to full fitness, Ghana international Kudus is expected to take on a key role in Amsterdam next term as the aim to secure a third successive Eredivisie title.

And if the Dutch giants are keen to begin building a base for some of Africa's top youngsters, then they will not have to look too far to find a player who is showing similar promise to Kudus in the early stages of his career.

Indeed, wonderkid Kamaldeen Sulemana is a player whose path in the game has paralleled that of Kudus, and whose form in 2020-21 suggests that he has potential to reach even greater heights than his compatriot.

Certainly, the 19-year-old is ending the season in style, having become the first player in FC Nordsjaelland history to simultaneously win the Danish Superliga Player of the Month and Young Player of the Month awards in April.

Sulemana and Kudus were both discovered at the Right to Dream Academy in Ghana, before being transferred to Nordsjaelland, with Techniman-born Sulemana signing his first professional contract with the Danish side in January 2020.

When Kudus joined Ajax six months later, Sulemana did not just inherit his friend’s No.10 shirt, he also established himself as Nordsjaelland’s talisman – inheriting the responsibilities of his departed countryman.

The pair still share a deep friendship, offering mutual support for each other privately - as well as publicly on social media, while clearly keeping tabs on each other’s careers.

They remain team-mates in the international sphere – Sulemana made his senior debut against Mali in October 2020 before earning a second cap against Qatar in a friendly a few days later – and may soon be reunited again in Amsterdam.

Ajax have officially declared their interest in the precocious attacker, with the club’s director of football, Marc Overmars, revealing that they had made contact with the youngster’s current employers.

“Of course, [Sulemana] has been performing fantastically in recent months,” ex-Arsenal winger Overmars told ESPN. “I did have some contact with the club, and now Ajax are being mentioned every week as an interested party.

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“Every club tries to put their players in the shop window, [but] at the moment we already have some wingers of our own. We’ll see calmly what will happen before we make any big steps.”

As well as Ajax, the likes of Lyon, Bayer Leverkusen and even Manchester United have been linked with the wideman, who is under contract until 2025, with reports suggesting that a fee of at least €11.5 million (£10m/$14m) would be required for any suitors to reach an agreement.

Certainly, the Kudus connection – as well as the midfielder’s success after making the transition from the Danish Superliga to the Eredivisie – is fuelling belief that Sulemana would be a fine addition at the Johan Cruyff ArenA.

While most effective on the left wing, he is comfortable across the forward line, and has quickly established himself as one of the most dangerous dribblers in the Danish top flight.

He is particularly lethal on the counterattack, where his direct running, ability to beat a man, and searing pace make him a daunting prospect.

After scoring four goals in 13 appearances in his debut campaign in Denmark, he has found the net nine times - as well as laying on six assists - in 25 games so far this term, with his ability to make an impact in the final third going some way to explain comparisons with Sadio Mane.

“[Sulemana is] really good,” FC Midtjylland skipper Erik Sviatchenko recently told local newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

“When he plays simple and knows when to play the ball, he is amazing. He is fast, strong and has an understanding of the game like few others.

“He’s on his way to something big, and it’s a pleasure to be tested against one of the great talents in Europe.”

The forward has demonstrated his vision, his dynamism and his ability to unsettle a backline with a sharp turn of pace, while his game intelligence is impressive for a player who is still in his teens.

Certainly, his directness, aggression and athleticism are not dissimilar to certain elements of Mane’s game, although Sulemana is not always as focused on the team’s goals and objectives as the selfless Senegal attacker.

"We are talking about a player with potential on a par with Neymar, and maybe even more than that, because he is even faster," Nordsjaelland coach Flemming Pedersen told TV3 Sport in May, and Sulemana certainly shares Neymar’s tendency to showboat.

He also posesses a similar individuality - some may argue selfishness - that the Brazil international has been criticised for in the past, and that can make him a frustrating team-mate at times.

Nonetheless, it is easy to see why some of Europe’s big boys are keeping tabs on the Black Stars wonderkid, and why he could be primed to outgrow the Danish top flight before too long.