PSV’s Ibrahim Sangare is coming off a strong season for the Dutch outfit. The Ivorian has long been an analytic’s favourite with his strong underlying numbers showing an underrated and effective defensive midfielder.
In a summer where a fair few clubs are looking for quality defensive midfielders, Sangare presents an attractive package of an admittedly-still-raw 24-year-old midfielder now with some European competition experience at a modest price, for a club willing to take the gamble.
Ibrahim Sangare’s style of play
Sangare is very much an energetic destroyer as a defensive midfielder. He shows up at close to 6 tackles + interceptions per game in the Eredivisie.
His physical presence means he’s good with aerial duels and while his dribbling and passing have shown positive signs of improvement, these aspects of his game have room for improvement that would push him into a top-tier category. Nonetheless, he keeps his passing simple and has a good 86% passing success rate in the league.
At the African Cup of Nations, his role changed to being more of a box-to-box midfielder and it was very encouraging how his ball carrying and dribbling numbers shot up along with pushing his key passes per game from 0.8 in the Eredivisie to 2.4 in the tournament.
In his limited games in Europe with PSV this season, his passing success fell to 84% while he did get sent off twice in four appearances, suggesting an as-yet raw player but one brimming with potential in the right role.
Chelsea and where else would he fit?
His profile lends itself well to being a potential backup option as the defence-minded of two central midfielders in Tuchel’s 3-4-3 setup. With age and fitness catching up with Kante, Chelsea does not have another central midfielder with a strong defensive profile to partner Kovacic, Gallagher or Loftus-Cheek in the future.
Jorginho excels with his intelligence and ability to move the ball quickly, but Sangare would add a different profile and option for Tuchel. He may not be as good as Declan Rice for the role but the significant price difference makes him a worthy squad option for Chelsea.
For other clubs seeking a defensive midfielder – the possession-based style of Ten Hag mean they’d need a different profile of midfielder. Antonio Conte’s Spurs rebuild could do with Sangare as a squad option in a similar two-man midfielder setup as Conte’s Chelsea, if the Italian stays at the club beyond the summer and is backed in the market.
In terms of being a stylistic fit and having first-team opportunities: Everton, Southampton and Brentford, all look like excellent options.
For a player that does a specific team role very well, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the likes of Atletico Madrid, AC Milan, Inter Milan and AS Roma flag him up on their shortlist.
Ibrahim Sangare is an interesting midfielder and the 24-year-old could go from strength to strength in the right team set-up, one to keep an eye on this summer.