Mohammed Kudus got bored and invented a new form of ball control
“He’s not better than me. He’s just a higher profile player, that’s all,” said Mohammed Kudus when asked about PSG and Brazil superstar Neymar last November.
Kudus and Neymar clashed during a friendly between Brazil and Ghana before the World Cup and the 22-year-old’s answer when asked about the exchanges revealed he isn’t lacking in self-confidence.
“He was defending his country and I was defending mine,” Kudus said. “I wasn’t about to let him push me around. What makes him better, for now, is that he has achieved a lot. I’ll get there soon.”
Judging by his 2022-23 output, the Ajax forward is well on his way to household name status; Kudus has scored 18 times in all competitions and shone for Ghana at Qatar 2022.
It’s no surprise to see him linked with Manchester United, with Erik ten Hag circling his former club like a vulture ready to snatch the latest prospect to be reared by the Dutch champions.
Now, during an Eredivisie match at Heerenveen in which he scored and assisted during Ajax’s 4-2 win, Kudus invented a new form of ball control to achieve some mental stimulation.
Watching a Jurrien Timber pass arc towards him, Kudus visibly weighed up all the potential options. Should he stick out a boot and cushion the ball into his orbit? Should he extend a thigh to give the ball a soft landing?
Or should he stick out his torso and allow the ball and chest to make an acquaintance?
Losing his footing meant Kudus had to rule out all those scenarios. Instead, he allowed the ball to bounce off his groin, before regaining his balance and teasing the Heerenveen defence with some piss-taking keepie-uppies.
Kudus is proving himself to be a highly versatile attacker, capable of operating in attacking midfield, out wide or up front.
He has played in each of the three aforementioned roles this season, but has mostly been used as a centre-forward which has attracted United’s attention.
However, earlier this season, the former FC Nordsjaelland ace admitted that he believes he is at his best playing as a No.10, even though he has played more frequently as a striker this term.
“I still feel that I can do my best in the No.10 position,” Kudus told De Telegraaf, speaking back in November. “I play as number nine for the team.
“I want to play every game, but Brian [Brobbey] got his chance and scored goals too. He’s my friend and I’m happy for him.”
Kudus played most of his football under Ten Hag in an attacking midfield role and he’s previously spoken about the manager’s reputation for developing young players convinced him to join Ajax in 2020.
“Because the club is known for developing talent, I talked about that with trainer Erik ten Hag,” Kudus said before Ghana’s match with Uruguay at last year’s World Cup.
“In his style of play, creative and attacking, I saw myself. It was exactly in line with my personal qualities and how I wanted to develop.”
Those words, and his comments about Neymar, underline the ambition of Kudus to fulfil his immense potential and become one of the world’s best.
His unique and inventive form of ball control indicates an intelligence that will take him far.
By Michael Lee