It is not often that a young player of Asian descent makes waves in the European footballing scene, especially if he is of Indian origin. But Leicester City’s 18-year-old starlet Hamza Choudhury has defied the norms and is making a name for himself.
So much so that the ‘wonderkid’ has been attracting keen interest from European giants like Real Madrid and Barcelona, not to mention the usual suspects in England – Manchester United, Chelsea & co. He has still not made his debut for the EPL champions but what does he have that makes him so desirable to the top dogs? We aim to find out.
Hamza, who is of Indian origin, was born in Leicester on 1st October 1997 and predictably joined Leicester’s famed youth academy in 2011. He rose up through the ranks very quick and was identified as a precocious talent. He became a regular in the Foxes’ U-18 side before he turned 16 and was even named in England U-18 side’s standby list.
Hamza, who plies his trade as a midfielder, was loaned out to Burton Albion, who play in the Football League One in February this year by Leicester who wanted to continue his development. He would go on to make an instant impact at Burton and help them secure promotion to the Championship for the first time in history.
He made 13 appearances for them and was even named the Man of the Match in the crucial win over Gillingham that secured them promotion.
Hamza, who sports a distinctive afro, is a tough tackling central midfielder who can control the tempo of a game. For Burton, he has been playing the role of a deep lying playmaker that shows that he can perform a variety of roles in the centre of the park if need be.
He is that typical strongly-built, all-action midfielder that drives a side on. Let’s take a look at some of his strengths and weaknesses:-
Passing Range: For an 18-year-old, Hamza possesses tremendous passing range. Some of his impressive performances for Burton were founded on his ability to hit the long passes as well as short ones. He can also thread intricate passes through crowded areas, which is a huge plus point in a physical league. He is the one who invariably starts for The Brewers.
Reading and Positioning: While he does his duty as a deep-lying playmaker, he doubles up as a destroyer when off the ball. He is an excellent reader of the game, which helps him in getting into perfect positions to break up opposition attacks. This ability is only likely to increase as he gains more experience.
Tackling: Hamza is a strong tackler and is absolutely fearless in the middle of the park. In fact, he often goes into a 50-50 without a care for his or his opponent’s (for that matter) safety. While it is always a bonus to have an aggressive tackler in the middle of the field as he progresses, Choudhury needs to learn how to judiciously use his tackling skills so that he doesn’t get himself sent off.
Fitness: One area where Chaudhury can definitely improve on is his fitness level. Then again, he was playing at the senior level for the first time this year at Burton and the requirements can be higher than what you need for a reserve team game. But he is only 18 and will only improve his fitness levels as he trains more professionally.
Attacking Threat: For all his expertise as a deep-lying playmaker, Choudhury has not shown that attacking spark that can elevate a midfielder’s game. His passing and creativity inside the final 3rd need huge improvements if he is to succeed as a box-to-box midfielder in the future.
In the higher leagues, he will have less time to get rid of the ball and if he doesn’t improve this area of his game, he will learn it the hard way.
Hamza, after all, the interest he has garnered from the Europe’s elite, must ensure that his development is unhindered. He faces a decision whether or not to stay with the English champions (where he might have a better chance of breaking into the first team) or a traditional giant where he is likely to have better coaching facilities but also more pressure to perform.
Choudhury has the physique (and the hairstyle) to stand out in his age group and with more effort and minor improvements, he can be another one of those Indian origin players (like Michael Chopra, Swansea’s Neil Taylor, Feyenoord’s Harmeet Singh, PSV’s Luciano Narsingh etc) to have plied their trade in the top levels of European football.