Scout report: Elseid Hysaj - The next Gunner?
Maurizio Sarri in his first season in charge of Napoli led the team to a second-place finish in the league behind Juventus. The Blues had a sensational campaign under the innovative Sarri and the performances of their fullback Elseid Hysaj caught the eye. Arsenal are rumoured to be interested in signing him for a respectable fee of £15 million and not just the Gunners, there were also rumours linking the Albanian defender with European giants like Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich and even Barcelona.
The interest of these clubs is not a surprise considering the spectacular 2015/16 season that Hysaj had and he is considered to be one of the hot prospects in European football right now.
Hysaj was born in Shkoder, on 2 February 1994. He started his youth career at KF Shkoder and then moved onto Italy joining Empoli’s youth academy. After impressing through the youth ranks,he made his senior team debut against Fiorentina in November 2011.
He played the full 90 minutes of the Coppa Italia tie which ended in a 2-1 defeat for his side. The 22-year-old established himself as Empoli’s first choice right back the following season which saw them narrowly miss out on promotion. Under the leadership of manager Maurizio Sarri, the club was promoted to Serie A in the following season after a 6-year absence.
Maurizio Sarri left for Napoli in June 2015 and he signed Hysaj on a 5-year-deal for a fee of £5 million making him the second most expensive Albanian footballer. Hysaj made 43 appearances in all competitions for the club last season and the praise that he received for his performances are nothing short of well deserved.
The youngster opted to play his International football for Albania after refusing an offer from the Italian Football Federation. He made his international debut against Georgia in February 2013 at the age of 19 making him Albania's third youngest player ever. Hysaj became Albania’s youngest captain ever when he led the team in a Euro 2016 warm-up match against Qatar.
Arsenal’s interest on the Albanian is catalysed by his versatility, the fact that he can play on both sides of the defence makes him a welcome addition to the squad. Hysaj will provide much-needed backup for the pair of Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal. Mathieu Debuchy and Kieron Gibbs might be on their way out of the club in search of regular first team football and notably, the former was loaned out to Ligue 1 in the January transfer window.
Hysaj is a no-nonsense defender who has averaged 2.4 tackles and 1.7 interceptions per 90 minutes in his first season with Napoli. The young full back is a tremendous athlete and is really quick for someone of his frame. It is not just his athleticism that makes him so highly rated, he is a very intelligent footballer who reads the game so well and has a great positional sense for a 22-year-old. He doesn’t get caught of position a lot which is very important for a fullback.
Add his vision to pick out teammates through long passes into the mix and Hysaj becomes the prodigy that he is. He has an impressive injury and disciplinary record having only picked up 5 yellow cards last campaign. His performances in UEFA Euro 2016 were impressive as the likes of Anthony Martial and Dimitri Payet found it tough to play against him.
Even though Hysaj is regarded as an attack minded full back; his involvement in goals, both in terms of scoring and assisting, is poor. He has scored only once during his 150 appearances for Empoli and has not scored for his current club Napoli or for the Albanian national team although he has made 43 and 19 appearances respectively.
The solo goal in his senior career came in a 2-1 defeat to Virtus Lanciano in April 2014. Hysaj’s ability to deliver crosses into the box is not the worst, but there is room for improvement. Apart from his slightly less involvement in goals, he has all the attributes that a fullback in the modern game should possess.
Hysaj’s agent has said that the player will remain in Naples next season, but it will be more than difficult to say no to the likes of Arsenal and Barcelona. Knowing about the positive influence that Arsene Wenger had on so many young players would tempt a move to the Emirates.
Still only 22, Hysaj can improve a lot as a player and become one of the best in his position and maybe North London is the right place for it. He certainly has enough about him to move to Arsenal, but the answer to the question, whether he will leave Naples is one that only time will tell.