By Allan JiangIf major European clubs are seeking a cheaper alternative toWolfsburgÂ left-back Ricardo Rodriguez,Â then targetÂ Augsburg's AbdulÂ RahmanÂ Baba.
Before you learn aboutÂ Baba,Â the transfer stock of left-backs has been inflated after Manchester United spentÂ â‚¬38.4/Â£30 millionÂ onÂ Luke Shaw, primarily on upside not productivity.
United legendÂ Paul Scholes saidÂ he would spend that amount of money on a "centre-forward who's going to score 30 goals a season," not a left-back.
|League Only||AbdulÂ RahmanBabaÂ 14-15||Gareth BaleÂ 14-15||Luke Shaw 13-14||Ricardo Rodriguez 14-15|
|Shots Per Goal||N/A||3.8||N/A||3.3|
|Key Passes Per Game||1.0||1.0||1.0||2.2|
|Dribbles Per Game||1.7||1.0||1.6||2.0|
|Passes Per Game||34.3||30.2||40||62.5|
|Pass Completion %||60.7||80.1||79.2||80.5|
|Cross Completion %||14.8||5||20.4||30.3|
This meansÂ Rodriguez is a more efficient shooter thanÂ Bale and a more productive creator averaging 1.2 more key passes per game (pass leading to scoring chance).
Completing 32.3 more passes per game thanÂ Bale,Â Rodriguez also functions as a passing outlet.
So far this season from an attacking perspective,Â Rodriguez is matching Bale.
From a defensive point of view,Â Rodriguez made 103 tackles last season and has already won back the ball 30 times in six league games this season (13 tackles, 17 interceptions).
Rodriguez is on courseÂ for greatness at left-back, a position that is often theÂ Achilles heel of teams.
Backed byÂ â‚¬93.77/Â£73.19Â billion-valuedÂ automobile companyÂ Volkswagen,Â WolfsburgÂ have financial clout, perÂ RaphaelHonigsteinÂ atÂ The Guardian: "Traditionalists have sneered atÂ VfL[Wolfsburg]Â ever since their ascent to theÂ BundesligaÂ in 1997 and were quick to point out that Volkswagen have generously subsidised the team to create an unfair advantage."
Therefore,Â WolfsburgÂ are not under financial pressure to sell RodriguezÂ to the first club that lodges a substantial bid.
RegardingÂ Rodriguez's future,Â whatÂ WolfsburgÂ should do is hold out for aÂ Galacticos-like transfer fee (this is presuming there is no buyout clause valued atÂ â‚¬30/Â£23.4 million or less).
Rodriguez's transfer value puts him out of range for many European clubs, so this is whereÂ BabaÂ comes in as a viable cost-effective alternative.
|Abdul Rahman Baba||Ghana||20||5'11"||154 lbs|
|Ricardo Rodriguez||Switzerland||22||5'11"||170 lbs|
BabaÂ leads theÂ BundesligaÂ inÂ tackles per gameÂ (5.7), 3.5 more tackles per game thanÂ Rodriguez.
Baba'sÂ performances forÂ Augsburg in theÂ BundesligaÂ reaffirms why he was highlighted as a key player for Ghana during the 2013Â FIFAÂ U20 World Cup, perÂ FIFA's official website: "competitive left-sided defender with excellent technique and forceful attacking runs."
BorussiaÂ DortmundÂ can attest toÂ Baba's "forceful attacking runs."
InÂ Augsburg'sÂ 3-2 defeatÂ toÂ Dortmund,Â BabaÂ created more scoring chances (three) thanÂ HenrikhÂ MkhitaryanÂ (one), who was playing on the opposite wing forÂ BVB.
BabaÂ led the game in assists (two).
Both his crossesÂ occurredÂ in the last 10 minutes of the game (82nd andÂ 89th), which shows his high fitness levels.
The ability to take the ball out of defence and into midfield is a traitÂ BabaÂ shares withÂ Rodriguez.
Augsburg management took a calculated gamble onÂ BabaÂ who displayed promise after taking over from HeinrichÂ SchmidtgalasÂ GreutherÂ Furth's starting left-back.
"We are convinced that his [Baba's]Â sporting qualities fit in with our team,"Â Augsburg general manager StefanÂ ReuterÂ said, per the club's official website (h/tÂ NathanÂ QuaoÂ atÂ CitiÂ FM). "He is a young player who has the potential to develop."
WhileÂ BabaÂ played for the worst team in theÂ BundesligaÂ (FurthÂ finished withÂ 21 pointsÂ from 34 games), he was a more productive ball-winner thanÂ Rodriguez was in his first season atÂ Wolfsburg.
BabaÂ won back possession 6.3 times compared toÂ Rodriguez's 4.4.
Also,Â BabaÂ was more proficient since he completed 3.5 tackles per foul, 0.9 higher thanÂ Rodriguez.
|League Only||AbdulÂ RahmanÂ BabaÂ 12-13||Ricardo Rodriguez 11-12|
|Shots Per Goal||N/A||N/A|
|Key Passes Per Game||0.5||0.8|
|Dribbles Per Game||1.7||0.8|
|Passes Per Game||27.7||36.6|
|Pass Completion %||69.3||70.3|
|Cross Completion %||22||23|
|Tackles Per Game||3.8||2.8|
|Tackles Per Foul||3.5||2.6|
|Interceptions Per Game||2.5||1.6|
|Fouls Per Game||1.1||1.1|
Two years and eight months ago,Â then-Wolfsburg managerÂ FelixMagathÂ predicted thatÂ Rodriguez would become a "pillar" of the team.
It was a bold statement fromÂ MagathÂ sinceÂ Rodriguez wasÂ NOTÂ a can't-miss prospect.
TheÂ FIFAÂ technical study group opted to select BenjaminSiegrist,Â GranitÂ Xhaka,Â HarisÂ Seferovic,Â NassimÂ BenÂ KhalifaÂ andÂ PajtimKasamiÂ overÂ Rodriguez as more outstanding players for Switzerland during the 2009Â FIFAÂ U17 World Cup, perÂ FIFA's official website.
In early November we were extremely surprised to read in a number of newspapers and spurious transfer frothing websites that Rodriguez had been monitored by Milan and both the Manchester clubs, while also being identified as a long term replacement for Ashley Cole atChelsea.
All this just days after he was dropped atÂ Wolfsburg.
Were we looking at the same player?
Full disclosure: In April 2012, I rankedÂ ZakariaÂ Labyad, JulianÂ Draxler,IkerÂ Muniain,Â Isco, ThibautÂ Courtois, AlexÂ Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ola John, JohnÂ Guidetti, RaphaelÂ Varane, Marc-AndreÂ terÂ StegenÂ and MarioGotzeÂ as better teenage prospects thanÂ Rodriguez, perÂ Bleacher Report.
Rodriguez's red flags at the time were off-putting andÂ same can be said aboutÂ Baba: Inaccurate passer (60.7Â pass completion percentage) and defensive positioning can be shoddy.
To the all major European clubs that wereÂ late to the RodriguezÂ party,Â do not make the same mistake withÂ Baba.
HeÂ has the potential to enjoy aÂ meteoricÂ Rodriguez-like rise.