Itâ€™s quite an open secret that Ghanaâ€™s predicament at left-back has become something of a perennial problem.
However, from that very side of the pitch there appears to be a new bright light ready to illuminate world soccer for years to come.
Baba Rahmanâ€™s blaze in the Bundesliga this season seem to have taken many by surprise. Be that as it may, it is the manifestation of a talent that had long been on the search for the perfect ground to blossom.
Who is Abdul Rahman Baba?
Born in the Northern Regional city of Tamale on July 2, 1994, Baba is a product of Ghana Division Two side Dreams FC. It was his sterling performances in the lower tier that attracted the attention of Ghanaian giants Asante Kotoko, who quickly whisked him away on a one-year loan deal in 2011.
A rather fierce debut awaited as he was thrown in at the deep end, starting for Kotoko in Ghanaâ€™s fiercest football rivalry against Accra Hearts of Oak in a pre-season Super 2 clash. Unfazed by the atmosphere, Baba put up a solid display, scripting his name as one-to-watch for the future.
He would go on to make the left-back spot his for the season with some dazzling displays for the Porcupine Warriors, a bravura that would earn him a nomination for the Discovery of The Year in the end of season awards. He eventually missed out on the award, Tema Youthâ€™s Joshua Oninku the victor, but nevertheless earned the chance to make a breakthrough in Europe after his loan stint.
Africa to Europe
Earlier linked with Napoli, Arsenal and Manchester City, it was newly-promoted Bundesliga side Greuther FÃ¼rth who snatched the young defender on a five-year deal in the summer of 2012. But despite settling in well, Babaâ€™s 20 appearances for the Shamrocks wasnâ€™t enough to prevent an early slip back to the lower tier after his team finished 18th, rock bottom of the table.
Strongly linked with a move away from the relegated outfit, Baba stayed on, playing 22 games as Greuther FÃ¼rth finished 3rd in the Bundesliga 2. leading to an unsuccessful play-off against Hamburg for the last available Bundesliga spot for 2014/15.
Before leaving, Baba featured in Greuther FÃ¼rthâ€™s opening two games of the 2014/15 Bundesliga 2 season. He provided the perfect leaving gift by scoring two goals â€“ his first and second for the club â€“ and winning a penalty in a famous 5-1 win over derby rivals FC NÃ¼rnberg, in a tempestuous Frankenderby, before joining Augsburg on August 12, 2014 in a five-year deal.
On the international scene, not much had happened for the 20-year-old until recently. After playing every single game as Ghana came third at the 2013 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Turkey, Baba had largely been kept on the fringes with the senior Ghana side. Until September, when he made his bow, providing an assist on his debut in a 3-2 victory away at Togo in a 2015 African Cup of Nations qualifier.
Blessed with searing pace and enormous energy, Baba is the true definition of a modern-day left-back. His knack to surge forward periodically sees him deployed as a left winger. Even so, he flourishes more at left-back. Good with the ball at his feet, the 20-year-old loves to take on defenders when in attacking mode, his efficiency on the break perfectly complementing his burst of pace. That said, he appears to have some work to do in his passing, positioning and recovery which, anyway, is quite normal for a rookie of his age.
His industry has seen him make waves in the Bundesliga already, with some brilliant displays, particularly in Augsburgâ€™s impressive 3-2 win over Borussia Dortmund in Week 2 of the season where he provided two assists. He has so far featured in all 11 league games to date including the 1-0 reverse at Bayer Leverkusen where he was named the man-of-the-match.
The stats there for all to see, Baba is currently the 7th ranked player according to the latest Bundesliga player index with an average of 2.9 interceptions, 3.5 clearances, 1.4 dribbles, 0.5 shot blocks and 4.8 tackles â€“ the highest tackle rate by any player in the Bundesliga.
What are people saying about him?
After taking to the Bundesliga like a kid to candy, there is a sense of accomplishment from Augsburgâ€™s hierarchy with regards to their summer bargain.
â€œWeâ€™re convinced that his (Baba) sporting qualities fits in with our team. He is a young player who has the potential to develop and he also wants to prove himself in the Bundesliga,â€ Stefan Reuter, the clubâ€™s managing director had said upon Babaâ€™s signing, a sentiment similar to coach Markus Weinzierlâ€™s.
â€œBaba Rahman is a young hardworking player who weâ€™re happy to be adding to our ranks. He will add another dimension to our play,â€ Weinzierl disclosed at Babaâ€™s unveiling.
If their pre-season comments are anything to go by, you can bet on seeing many raised glasses in the Augsburg chambers for doing good business.
How far can he go?
For obvious reasons, Ghanaians are of the hope that Baba would truly live up to his early augury. Unlike fellow fullbacks Samuel Inkoom, Daniel Opare and David Addy who seemingly showed an early flush of brilliance but have since struggled to live up to the hype, this is one jewel Ghanaians wouldnâ€™t want to see go down the drain as the search for a long-lasting solution to the problematic left-back spot continues.
He currently appears to wield the right to the starting spot with two assists in three matches and with the likes of 21-year-old Leicester youngster Jeffrey Schlupp in the fray, Ghana may have perhaps found that much-awaited panacea.
How far Abdul Rahman Baba blossoms with the national side would largely depends on his success at club level. With his early Bundesliga heroics, it is not hard to see why he has earned comparison with fellow Bundesliga poster-boy Ricardo Rodriguez of Wolfsburg. If he can keep his head up, you can certainly envisage a rather short episode to Babaâ€™s Augsburg romance, with stellar European sides set to be keeping a close eye on him.
Admittedly, with a huge sigh, that would signify one in the bag for Ghana. That said, Baba is still pretty much a diamond in the rough, on the verge of lighting up the biggest stage.
Source:Â Just FootballÂ