2013’s Asian Young Footballer of the Year; nephew of legendary Ali Khadim; Asia’s Gareth Bale, Ali Adnan has been regarded a player way above his age. The Rhizepor left back is most notably known for stealing breaths in the 2013 U-20 World Cup. Here is a report aiming to paint a more detailed picture of the youngster who celebrates his 20th birthday today.
Ali Adnan Kadhim Nassir Al-Tamimi was born in Baghdad 20 years from today on December 19, 1993. The player, who is most easily summed up as an attacking left back, has football running in his blood with both his father and uncle having played at the top level during the 70s and 80s, his uncle Ali considered one of the best strikers in the history of Iraq.
The 20 year old is a graduate of the Iraq’s esteemed ‘Ammo Baba Football School’, where he excelled and subsequently progressed through its ranks. From here, he moved to one of Iraq’s best youth setups, the ‘Al-Zawraa Sports Club’. He had now joined one of the best youth ranks his country could offer, perhaps following his uncle’s footsteps with the Iraqi legend also having represented this club. He spent the next season representing the youth team at city rivals, Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, from where he got transferred to Baghdad FC.
Here, Adnan was meant to stay in the youth ranks but head coach, Yahya Alwan, saw something in the defender and asked him to join the senior team. However, the overflowing squad made the coach ask him to return to the youth side. The next head coach at the club, Karim Kurdi made the youngster a regular in the first squad.
During the 2012 winter transfer window, the defender received an offer from Saudi club Al-Ittihad of Jeddah, but that deal could not materialize due to rather trivial reasons. But it was perhaps destiny, as the summer of 2013 got the young Iraqi the invitation from one of the bigger, certainly not the biggest leagues of Europe- the Süper Lig of Turkey. On August 1, 2013 Ali Adnan officially agreed to sign a 5 year contract deal with Çaykur Rizespor. All this while, the Iraqi player was enjoying limelight his family and he himself could not have imagined. He was targeted by clubs like Sevilla, Arsenal and Galatasaray. The reason for this was his emphatic performance at the U 20 World Cup held in June-July earlier this year.
Already having represented his country at the senior level a fair amount of times after being called by then interim coach Hakim Shaker to make his debut against Bahrain in December 2012, he went on to play for his country in the 2013 U-20 World Cup. This is probably where it all changed for the young Iraqi left back. The player put on an absolutely scintillating display for his country where it managed to finish fourth. His singular display became the attraction of the whole Iraqi side. Iraq’s matches got a lot of international audience because people wanted to watch the ‘hot property’ of the country at his best. He ended the tournament with two heavenly goals. The first one against the English side was one any attacking midfielder or forward scores- Adnan beat an array of defenders with tricks and skills on the ball and then struck it sweetly into the net. The second one was a mesmerizing free kick against the Uruguayan side, one with whose curve, Roberto Carlos would be happy. Come to think of it, this young Iraqi reminds one of Roberto Carlos as he is a very offensive minded left back, who might reach those heights one day.
Ali Adnan featured in our list of 100 Best Young Players to Watch-out for in 2014. He was at #17 in our list of defenders. See the entire list here.
Style and Strengths
Adnan is a quick, agile and powerful defender who utilizes any and every opportunity to move forward into the opponent’s half. Adnan, standing tall at 6 ft 2 inches, doesn’t get distracted with attacking and miss out on what he is required to- defend. What could be observed from his play is that he has a good eye and he anticipates the opponent’s attack shrewdly, and is able to get behind the ball, mainly with the assistance of his domineering physique. He made two goal-saving clearances and one goal-saving tackle in the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup and this was because of the way the youngster had placed himself. Like a good defender, Adnan is an effectual tackler who wins the ball but does not over-commit himself in the process. His fast pace helps him in both defensive and offensive aspects of the game. He can cleverly use this play to intercept passes.
He has the added ability to come forward and keep the momentum generated by the attackers of his team. When in the opponent’s half, he doesn’t look like a defender as he is quite efficient on the offensive. The manner in which he changes direction coupled with his high speed allows him to beat defenders quite easily- something which became his trademark at the U20 World Cup.
His biggest strength is his confidence and the fact that his attitude shows certain leadership traits as well. At such a young age, he is cheeky with the ball in a very positive way. This arrogance on the ball lifts his team forward and encourages them, as could be witnessed in the U20 World Cup.
Adnan’s crossing too is superb. He finds a teammate with most of his crosses. The youngster has the confidence to take mainly left footed strong shots at goal himself and because of the strength in the attempt, the opposing goalkeeper is not always able to secure the ball enabling Adnan’s teammates to have a shot themselves from the rebound.
The likening to Gareth Bale is not surprising as the 100 million Real Madrid man also started his career at Southampton as a left back. Adnan, like Bale ornaments his game with dazzling runs and dribbles on the left flank. The Iraqi international has the ability to dominate the entire left side of the pitch and can certainly fit the bill in a tactical formation where wingbacks are needed for the side. Adnan, in fact already sometimes positions himself in a winger’s position, and frequently gets fouled on, enabling his team to win free kicks in dangerous positions.
His main defensive weakness is that his attacking threat invites a number of opposing players to be doubly cautious of him. With the ball, he then gets caught between a string of defenders, and instead of passing, he attempts to defeat them all by moving forward. While he is mostly successful in beating his opponents, he sometimes gives the ball away in extremely dangerous areas. Adnan does not like to take the safe route of playing the long pass to a teammate. Instead, he tries to dribble away and outfox his opponents.
The other notable weakness this 20 year old has in his game is that the offensive part of his game can result in a huge a gap in the defence which could be exploited. Since Adnan plays as a left back who often thrusts forward, and not as a professional wingback, he is not coached properly in this division- the wingback’s necessity to run back quickly and assume defensive duties. Perhaps his coaches need to work with him in this characteristic of the game and gradually transform him into a customary one. With him playing as a left back, the other defenders take the left side defence role filled, and expect the player to run back after his offensive contribution. Instead, it has often been the case that opposite teams have been able to exploit the vast free area on the left side because Adnan has not been the quickest to run back to his position.
“Ali Adnan is a young and very promising player. Rizespor is very fortune to have him. He is a solid defender and an excellent left full back. His left foot is very strong, good in the air, he has to get little better with his match vision from the back. In 15 matches he played with Rizespor he scored two goals. His free kick goal against Gaziantep is one of the best goals in the first half of the Turkish Super Lig! He has good potential to move to big clubs in Turkey and Europe. To achieve that he has to work a little harder”
— Ahmet Turgut, Editor, turkeyfootball.blogspot.in
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