Dango Ouattara – the unexpected star of Ligue 1’s biggest underdogs by Shay Hicks
Name: Dango Aboubacar Faissal Ouattara
D.O.B: 11/02/2002 (20 years old)
Height: 177cm (5’9.5″)
Strong Foot: Left
Current Club: Lorient
Current Value: £6.30m (Via Transfermarkt)
Dango Ouattara is a young Burkinabé winger, who is currently enjoying an incredible run of form with Lorient in the French Ligue 1. He seemingly came out of nowhere to spearhead the attacks of a Lorient side who’s impressive performances have lead them to 3rd place in Ligue 1 after 12 games. Lorient’s squad is full of promising young talent, with the likes of Enzo Le Fée running the midfield and creating chances and Nigerian Terem Moffi leading the team with 8 goals in 11 league appearances. However, the unknown factor and sudden rise of Ouattara make him possibly the most intriguing prospect in the squad.
Dango started his career in his native country of Burkina Faso. He began training in the Académie Foot Plus before signing for Majestic FC, a club in Dango’s home city and the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou. However, he only lasted 11 games at the club before being quickly picked up by Lorient’s reserve side in the summer of 2020. After just 5 games and 1 goal in the reserve side, FCL decided Ouattara was first-team quality and signed him to his first professional contract before the start of the 2021/22 season. Whilst his first season in the senior squad was a rather quiet one, Dango made a big enough impression to earn his first international call-up and subsequent cap as a half-time substitute, in a game against Mauritania in December of 2021. He would go on to score his first international goal just one month later, using his pace on the wing and finishing ability to notch the winner in an AFCON quarter-final game against Tunisia. Ouattara had a rather quiet end to the season after returning from the AFCON, but so far he has had a red-hot start to the 2022/23 campaign. He has already beaten his goal and assist tallies from the previous season, and he had a very good case to win Ligue 1’s Player Of The Month for September over Lionel Messi (4 goals and 2 assists for Dango, compared to 1 goal and 3 assists for Messi). Ouattara is rumoured to be in talks with Lorient over a new contract extension, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see a larger team come in with a bid for the young winger as soon as January.
Notable dates in Dango Ouattara’s Career:
– Summer 2020 – Signs for Lorient B
– 20/05/2021 – Signs his first professional contract with Lorient
– 08/08/2021 – Makes his professional debut for Lorient
– 30/12/2021 – Makes his international debut for Burkina Faso
– 29/01/2022 – Scores his first goal for Burkina Faso
– 20/05/2022 – Scores his first goal for Lorient
– 07/09/2022 – Breakout performance vs Lyon, provides 1 goal and 1 assist in a 3-1 upset
Performance analysis – Lorient vs OGC Nice, 30/10/2022:
– Uses his pace and first touch to latch onto the end of through balls and beat defenders
– Stays composed but plays with a high tempo when he is in possession in attack
– Showed great jumping ability and an eye for goal with a glancing header to put Lorient 1-0 up
– Looked comfortable down the middle, but definitely more suited to the wing
– Dropped slightly deeper at one point when Nice had possession, then quickly played a great through ball once they won the ball back
– Showed poise and good decision-making in the final third
– Unfortunate not to have 2 assists on the night
– Unselfish with the ball, but not afraid to run at defenders and beat them with his dribbling
– Shifted back to the right wing once the usual starting striker Terem Moffi was subbed on
– Had a much quieter second half with Nice chasing an equaliser and eventually the winning goal, but still looked very good whenever Lorient had the ball
– Would have liked to see him get more involved at times, had the least touches of any outfield player to play the full match (33)
Whilst his performance did stagnate in the second half with Nice dominating the latter stages, Ouattara’s first half performance alone was more than enough to convince me how special of a prospect he is. He rarely put a foot wrong from the first minute, and displayed his incredible ability every time Lorient attacked. If Lorient talisman Terem Moffi had been fit enough to start and play the full 90 minutes then this game would’ve been a lot less close, especially given the sheer volume of quality opportunities they created in the first half. Dango showed off his pace and dribbling ability whenever he had the ball at his feet, and even showed off his jumping and aerial ability from corners for his goal (something his former coach hinted he would become good at, per ligue1.com). Overall, this was another solid performance from a very confident player, and even though the whole team’s performance tailed off in the second half, Lorient will feel they could’ve extended their unbeaten run tonight had they taken their chances early on.
Truthfully, the sky may be the limit for Dagno if he can keep this kind of form up. Hopefully, the last two months have been more than just a flash in the pan, and he can continue tearing Ligue 1 defences apart for the rest of the season.
I think it’s important to note that Lorient’s other star performers this season have all had much more time with this current squad. Enzo Le Fée has slowly moulded himself into a starting central midfielder and has been featuring regularly for Lorient since their Ligue 2 title winning season of 2019/20. Terem Moffi has made 83 total appearances since he was signed from the Belgian side Kortrijk in the summer of 2020. In contrast, the 2021/22 season was Dango’s debut season with the first team, in which he made 25 appearances and started just 7 games. Before that, he was with the reserve side and before then he was a relatively unknown prospect playing in Burkina Faso. This is the first stretch of regular first-team starts in Ouattara’s senior career, which is extremely hard to believe after seeing how red-hot he is at the moment.
I’m not ashamed to say that Ouattara reminds me a lot of Rafael Leão. Of course he has a long way to go to reach Leão’s level, he is still rough around the edges and didn’t impose himself on the game for the full 90 minutes like Leão does. However, for the majority of the first half he was simply untouchable. A real joy to watch, the kind of player that any club would be lucky to have. Ouattara’s current deal expires in 2024 and he is reportedly in talks with the club over a 2-year extension. Even so, I find it hard to believe that he will still be at Lorient this time next year.