Leeds United brought over a virtual unknown in Had Sacko, signing of a right winger that was definitely from the proverbial left-field.
He skulked about at the back of the team photo as the players disembarked the team bus on the Ireland tour, drawing attention for that blonde streak driven through his hair in a sartorial tip o’ th’ hat to Paul Pogba.
So he has a €60m release clause on his head, but that’s more of a safeguard and precaution should big teams come in hoovering up his talent – it is said that it’s a common clause to put in in Portugal.
After a series of impressive performances, including one where he made Sheffield Wednesday’s left-back Daniel Pudil look like a Sunday League footballer dragged out of his bed at the last minute with a hangover.
He continued this rampant display against Blackburn, time and again driving at what was admittedly a poor Blackburn defence that simply sat back and attempted to soak up the Leeds United pressure and hope to get something out of the game.
With that €60m release clause tying Hacko to Sporting Lisbon, you hope that the player you are loaning is half decent. Thankfully Hadi Sacko is just that and then some. For once, Leeds United might just have gotten themselves a decent loan player.
The thing that makes him stand out in games is his willingness to run at defences, oh and his combination of pace and power also helps him on his way. Whilst his final ball may be a tad wayward, his decision-making more in the ‘mine’ camp than ‘it’s yours’, time and again he puts defences on the back foot and makes defenders do what they often hate to do, deal with pace and power whilst trying to steer a threat away from goal.
Leeds manager Garry Monk, in talking to the Yorkshire Evening Post’s Phil Hay said: “He’s fantastic to work with. He’s still a little bit raw in certain areas of his game and that’s for us to help and work on with him but he’s a very naturally-gifted player. You don’t want to take away too much from his game because that unpredictability can be a big weapon.”
It is, as mentioned, this willingness to run at and commit defenders, allied to his unpredictability, that makes Hadi Sacko the ‘weapon’ that Monk talks about. But what sort of weapon is he, waht sort of ‘weapon’ is it that Leeds United fans are getting a little frothed at the mouth about?
Hadi Sacko so far in 2016/17 – emerging as a Leeds United Exocet
- Dribbles: 21 from 32 (65.6% successful – avg 3 per game).
- Passes: 98 from 127 (72.4% accuracy – avg 14 per game)
- Key Passes leading to chances: 9 (one per 49 minutes)
- Assists: 2
- Interceptions: 1
- Shots: 9
Sacko has completed 21 dribbles in just seven appearances and 441 minutes, in essence completing a dribble every 21 minutes that he has been on the pitch. Last season it was Lewis Cook who led the tally of completed dribbles with 51 from 88 attempts – giving the former Leeds midfielder a 58% completion and one completed dribble per 72 minutes. Even closer to Sacko’s position is Stuart Dallas and his 2015/16 returns were 30 dribbles from 71 attempts – 42.3% completion and one completed dribble per 108 minutes.
Then there’s the chances that his industry creates – nine of them this season so far. Nine chances from 98 accurate passes – a high rate of 9.2% of completed passes ending in chances for fellow Leeds players. Stuart Dallas had 53 key passes leading to chances over last season – one per 61 minutes of game time and 6.9% of all his completed passes.
Now I’m not saying that Hadi Sacko is going to be as effective and influential as Lewis Cook, nor am I saying that he will be as productive as Stuart Dallas was last season or Alex Mowatt the season before that. Yes, there is a long way to go in the 2016/17 Sky Bet Championship season – 39 games to be precise, but young Sacko is beginning to show that brewakaway flair that made him a runner-up only two years ago for France in the Toulon U-20 tournament.