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Sporting’s €80million-rated wonderkid has the Premier League’s big guns hot & bothered

You know what’s brilliant? When you see young ballers you signed on Football Manager signing for major clubs in real life.

You hear your pals mention this wonderkid’s name down the pub because they’ve been linked with one of the Premier League big hitters, and you are primed and ready to go on this subject. “Yeah, he’s actually more of a Shearer than an Henry. Classic number 9 — perfect for the Prem.”

You’ve never seen them play in real life, you’ve never even seen them on the telly, but you know exactly how this kid is going to fare and where his career is headed.

Step forward, Ousmane Diomande.

Several reports suggest that Sporting CP’s Ivorian centre-back is being seriously considered as a transfer option for Newcastle United, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea. Diomande reportedly has an €80million clause in his contract, which Sporting will probably demand from any potential buyers.

When you give Diomande an ocular patdown, though, it becomes abundantly clear why Sporting are desperate for such a large fee. The kid’s got it.

We know all about Diomande from Football Manager — a crucial part of the backline that took us to consecutive Champions League titles. But we have also actually watched a fair bit of him and, let us tell you, he’s special. See for yourself:

Diomande’s anticipation and reading of the game stands out to us. He seems to be inside the attacker’s head, already knowing where they want to go, and that might come from the fact that he clearly knows how attackers’ brains work. He regularly jumps up to challenge an opponent just as a pass has been played to them, beating them to the ball before it’s reached their feet.

He’s also outstanding with his own feet. The way he can use his first touch to simultaneously tackle an opponent, beat them, and put himself into a position to start an attack is a skill very few defenders possess.

He oozes calm and appears to have a mental picture of everything around him comparable to a top central midfielder.

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Diomande grew up in the Ivory Coast, but moved to Denmark to join Midtjylland’s academy at 16. Two years later, he was sent on loan to Mafra in the Portuguese second tier, where after just 17 appearances, Sporting scouts had seen enough to convince the bosses to splash the cash on the Ivorian.

This season, 2023-24, has been Diomande’s first full season in Lisbon, but heads are turning. Heads are very much turning. After just 40 appearances, his Sporting CP career might be coming to an end, but where he ends up is anyone’s guess.

Liverpool are probably favourites, since Diomande’s current boss at Sporting looks destined to take over from Jurgen Klopp on Merseyside, and perhaps he’ll persuade Ousmane to follow him.

Newcastle were extremely interested in January and now that Sven Botman and Jamaal Lascelles are both on the shelf, along with Fabian Schar playing through various injuries almost every time he sets foot on a pitch, they’ll be keen to come back in for a top centre-back like Diomande.

Chelsea and Arsenal are both reportedly interested in the 20-year-old as well, but their need is less urgent than Newcastle and Liverpool’s. Ultimately it will come down to Ousmane, and whoever the highest bidder is.

Either way, we hope we see him in the Prem next season — he looks absolutely mustard.

By Andrew Martin