Amad Diallo’s loan spell at Sunderland this season has been a roller coaster ride of mixed emotions.
The young Ivorian usually tends to start off like a house on fire. He scored a brace on his first appearance for the United U23s and marked his European debut for the Red Devils with a crucial header against Milan within minutes of coming off the bench. While on loan at Rangers he scored once more near five minutes into his first start for the Glaswegian giants.
His beginnings at Sunderland however did not bear resemblance to any of his previous experiences as Amad initially struggled for game-time at the Stadium of Light. He failed to make any meaningful contributions on his first five appearances for the Black Cats and many at the time were speculating about his future and ridiculing his £17 million price tag.
Even his manager Tony Mowbray admitted to The Express in early October, “It’s not enough just to be a lovely footballer who can dribble and go past people, but never have an end product. That’s the message, yet it’s not a simple one.”
Times were bleak and the spotlight was on the young forward who could have buckled under the pressure as many talented youngsters have before him. But Amad put his head down, working his socks off and the results have been startling. So startling in-fact that it has led many a United fan to seriously consider the prospect of recalling him in January.
“We consider everything but I have a little bit of reservation about that because I don’t want to stop the process” Eric Ten Hag candidly replied when asked by The Athletic about the chances of Amad’s loan being cut short and he is correct in saying so. There are multiple senior players ahead of the diminutive forward in the pecking order and there can be no guarantees in playing time at the highest level.
For now, Amad Diallo remains Sunderland’s second highest goal-scorer with 6 goals in 19 appearances but what has been so impressive about his growth this season is his overall play and his ability to move into the half-spaces and be a constant menace in the final third.
Blessed with quick feet, immaculate vision and a wide range of passing, the Ivorian has developed into a player with maturity far beyond his years. His natural skill-set is now complimented by his intelligent reading of the game and this has resulted in him being instrumental for the Wearsiders, who are currently riding high on a five game unbeaten run in the Championship, a run that has coincided with Amad’s drastic improvement in form.
In their most recent league fixture against Blackpool, the Ivorian was at his imperious best, completing 50/55 passes with a 91% passing accuracy while playing seven balls into the final third, making two key passes and creating a big chance.
Amad also rattled the crossbar with a venomous shot and on another day could have walked off the field with a whole host of assists. He won six ground duels and boasted 79 touches while successfully completing 100% of his long passes.
It was a performance as complete as they come and the youngster can take great heart in his rapid rise through the Sunderland ranks. The mundane start to this loan spell is now just an afterthought, a nightmare which has been swiftly replaced by hopeful optimism and belief that he truly belongs in the highest echelons of the game going forwards.
With the Black Cats trailing the play-off places by just a mere point, the second half of the season promises to be an intriguing one for both club and player.