Ahmed Haytham writes a detailed scouting report about Ramadan Sobhi, the Stoke City and Egypt winger.
Who is Ramadan Sobhi?
Ramadan Sobhi was born on the 27th of June 1997 in Egypt, where people are obsessed with the beautiful game. Being born in such an atmosphere triggered the young lad to start playing football at a young age. In an interview on Egyptian television he stated that he had tryouts in many clubs in Egypt, these teams includes Al Ahly’s rivals, Zamalek SC. He was rejected by the coach in charge of the tryouts for the reason of “not knowing how to play football at all”. After a week, he had a successful tryout with Al-Ahly and he started to train with the juniors team then, at the age of 13.
His impressive performances with the Juniors team at the Dubai International tournaments led to his promotion to the first team. At the age of 16, he made his first team debut against Ghazl Al Mahala but he was only given 25 minutes. Despite having only 3 appearances in 2013/14, his side managed to secure the league title, which is considered as his first trophy in his professional career.
Sobhi was a regular pick for Al Ahly’s then manager, Juan Garrido in the 2014/15 league campaign. In 24 appearances in the league he managed to score 5 goals and made one assist. Ramadan managed to grab the attention of the international media by standing on the ball in the Cairo derby against Zamalek. After creating controversy and being accused of immaturity, he apologized. But he repeated the same action again in Al Ahly’s victory in the Egyptian Super Cup and apologized afterwards as well. The young lad only managed to win the Super Cup that season after ending in 2nd place in the league behind Zamalek SC.
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On an international note, Ramadan was a regular starter for Egypt’s U18 and U20 sides. After his outstanding performances with the U23 squad in which he scored 4 goals in 9 appearances, the young lad persuaded Hector Cuper (Egypt’s national team manager) to pick him to make his International First Team debut against Tanzania in the African Cup of Nations qualifiers. Thenceforth, he made 6 appearances and pushed Egypt to qualify to Africa’s Cup of Nations in two occasions. The first was against Nigeria when he found Mohamed Salah with a crucial pass in the 90th minute, Salah scored and the match ended 1-1 to raise Egypt’s hopes for qualifying. Then he secured the qualification himself by scoring the only goal in the game in the 65th minute against Nigeria.
He became a key-player in the 2015/16 season under Al Ahly’s former manager Martin Jol; Sobhi completed the season with 6 goals and 12 assists in a total of 34 games in all competitions. The 19-year-old gained the attention of Stoke City’s scouts and completed his move for a fee that could rise to 6 million Euros. Ramadan has signed a five-year contract with Stoke City and Mark Hughes was delighted to bring him in his side.
Stoke’s manager said “I met him last night and he seems a very mature young man and we’ve got high hopes for him. So I’m very pleased he’s going to join us and I’m looking forward to working with him. The Egyptian league isn’t an easy league, so he’s obviously capable of dealing with that aspect and I’m sure he will have an impact with us.” on the day of the signing.
Undeniably, Ramadan has a lot of potential and has a lot in his locker. His battle to earn his spot is not an easy one; he is challenging the likes of Bojan, Arnautovic, Shaqiri and Afellay for any of their spots.
What is his Style of Play?
The 19-year-old wunderkind is most often found playing as a left winger. However, Ramadan is comfortable playing on either flank and even as a number 10 or as a second striker. The variety of positions in which the young lad can play proves how much of a threat he is for the opposition’s defense from anywhere in the final third of the pitch. His style of play is often compared to Mohamed Abo Treka, one of the most technical players in Egypt’s history.
Ramadan Sobhi of Stoke City during the pre-season friendly match between Hamburger SV and Stoke City | Photo by Joachim Sielski / Getty Images
It is easily seen that the youngster likes to drift into the middle when he has the ball to have a wider vision of the pitch and to have a variety of vertical passing options. Sobhi is anything but a proper winger that hugs the line, it is unusual to find him trying to outpace the full-backs to get a cross into the box from byline or from deep. However, he is frequently seen receiving the ball near the touchline in the wing area and slightly drifts to the half-space, allowing the fullback to overlap and then he has more freedom and space with the ball.
Moreover, his indirect contributions to build the attack or create a goal scoring opportunity for his team are frequently seen, he is perfect in demonstrating decoy runs which is intended to draw defenders out of position to allow his teammates more space and time.
Ramadan was feautured in our 100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2016.
What are his Strengths?
The thing that made him standout in the Egyptian League was how well he could dribble the ball. He has the most dribbles in the league with 93, averaging 4.1 successful dribbles per game. On the note of being a threat in the final third of the pitch; he has the most dribbles in the final third in the league with 49 dribbles.
Combining his remarkable dribbling skills with his agility, he has the ability to play in tight spaces competently. This can be observed in his goal against Misr Al Makasa. He received the ball on the edge of the box, where he took on two players to play a 1-2 with his teammate to receive the ball before a calm finish. The Egyptian has a pretty surprising stat to his name; he managed 24 completed dribbles in the penalty box. Moving on to his passing ability, Ramadan’s pass accuracy is 81% which is the second-highest rate among wingers and managed to top the league with most passes completed inside the oppositions’ box.
His calmness and composure when he has the ball allows him to pick the most productive options. His maturity on the ball makes him effective and efficient. It was the 72nd minute in a game against Al Masry where Al Ahly was 3-1 down trying desperately to score in a heated game. Ramadan received the ball on the edge of the box before getting into the box where there were 9 Al Masry players inside; outnumbering Al Ahly players who had only 3 players. Ramadan held the ball perfectly waiting for more Al Ahly players to arrive at the box for an increased chance to score. When his teammate finally arrived, Ramadan brilliantly beat the defender who was blocking the pass then secured the pass to his teammate. Although some say that a hard low cross on the near post is a half-scored goal as it could easily hit a defender to find its way into the net.
Ramadan was a crucial player for Al-Ahly as 7 of his 12 direct contributions in the league were when his team was drawing or behind in a game. 15% of all Al Ahly shots have been taken or created by him. He is always seen asking his teammates for the ball or adjusting his position to receive the ball, he has up to 57 touches per game which is more than any other winger in the league.
Egypt’s Ramadan Sobhi (L) celebrate his goal against Nigeria with his teammate Mohamed Salah | Photo credit: KHALED DESOUKI / AFP / Getty Images
Combining his height of 1.83 meters and the physical strength he possesses, Sobhi protects the ball well to give his teammates a chance to make their runs or get into a better positions. Holding up the ball under pressure is definitely one of his strengths.
In the modern game wingers tend to have defensive duties, Ramadan’s defensive contribution is spectacular. The Egyptian has up to 37 interceptions to his name in the previous season, which is more than any other winger in the league.
Another that cannot be neglected is his determination and passion that he shows in every game. He has the professional mentality that some older players lack. “I actually don’t feel under any pressure. I’m never worried when I step onto the pitch, The only thing I feel is that I’m shouldering a big responsibility of helping my team win. But, thanks to God, no pressure affects me”, he said in an interview for FIFA.com
What are his Weaknesses?
Moving on to his weaknesses, the youngster struggles to deliver accurate long passes. He has a long ball passing accuracy rate of only 25%.
Another weak side of his game is his crossing ability. He has a rate of successful crosses of 31%; only 11 crosses were completed from a total of 36, which is rather depressing for a winger. But fortunately, now he has Peter Crouch and Bony in his side, so hopefully this poor rate will escalate a bit.
Furthermore, the Egyptian International sometimes dives into immature tackles which resulted in having 3 yellow cards and 1 red card to his name last season in all competitions. Also, sometimes he doesn’t track back well enough, but hopefully he will improve under the management of Mark Hughes.
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Ahmed was born in 1997 in Egypt.
It’s fair to say that football has always been his biggest passion. Arsenal was one of the main reasons he fell in love with football at the age of seven. He used to play football for his local club before injuries got in the way. After college, he hopes to get a Coaching Badge and start a managerial career in football.
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