Festy Ebosele – Ireland’s Rising Star in Serie A by Ryan Kilbane
With news a few weeks ago that promising Bohemian FC left-back Derin Adewale is due to sign for Serie A side Lecce, the recently established pipeline for Irish players moving to Italy show no sign of stopping.
Just last week Ireland u-19 midfielder Justin Ferizaj swapped Shamrock Rovers for Frosinone while James Abankwah (Udinese) and Kevin Zefi (Inter Milan.) are over a year into their Italian adventures.
However, it is a different Udinese prospect that could be the next to blow up. Festy Ebosele became the first Irishman to play in the Italian topflight when he made his debut against AC Milan in August 2022 since Robbie Keane lined out for Inter in the 2000–01 season.
The flying winger/wing back racked up 539 minutes across the league and cup in his debut season for Udinese playing mostly as a RWB but twice at LWB. He was rewarded by being given the number 2 jersey for the 2023/24 campaign and has repaid some of that faith with a steady start to the season for I Bianconeri.
So far, he has added another 261 minutes in the opening five games of Serie A, starting 3 of their 5 fixtures.
Having just turned 21 in early August Ebosele also recently made his first Ireland appearances in the Euro qualifies to France and the Netherlands. With Seamus Coleman (34) and Matt Doherty (31) both potentially past their prime he could nail down the RB/RWB position in the near future.
While his profile in England may have dropped slightly since he left Derby County, Ireland fans have been quietly hoping for Ebosele to burst onto the scene in a big way this season.
If you look at some of his stats in his debut season last year, they are more than reasonable and provide a good baseline for a player who is still adapting to a new league and style of play.
2022/23 Domestic Stats
Played 539 minutes – League and Coppa Italia – two games at LWB – 4 starts and a total of 17 Serie A appearances.
All Players in Competition
Take-Ons attempted per 90 – ranked 8th in Serie A – with 7.83
Successful take-Ons per 90 – ranked 11th in Serie A – 4.13
Progressive Carries per 90 – ranked 14th in Serie A – 5.87
Carries into the final 1/3 per 90 – ranked 15th in Serie A – 3.91
Dribble per 90 – ranked 18th in Serie A – 5.81
Compared to other FB/WB
Progressive runs per 90 – FB and WB – ranked 4th in Serie A – 3.66
Assist per 90 – FB and WB – Serie A ranked 10th – 0.18.
Offensive duels per 90 – FB and WB – 14.09 – Ranked 2ND in Serie A
Tackles won per 90 – ranked 22nd in Serie A – 2.17
Defensive actions that lead to a shot attempt per 90 – ranked 12th in Serie A – 0.22
Ebosele’s main attributes are his physical ones, he is blessed with excellent pace but compliments that with good dribbling technique and balance. A lot of this good work comes through take-ons where he can leave the defender for dead from a standing start or while carrying the ball. In his 20-minute cameo across the games with giants France and the Netherlands he attempted 4 dribbles and was successful in 3.
Across all his senior minutes so far in his career he has attempted 9.29 dribbles per 90 with a 49% success rate. He provides an assist for a shot 0.65 per 90. With 4 coming in his last game against Fiorentina. Which earned him a place in ‘SofaScores’ Team of the week
Predominantly an attacking wing-back, he does seem adept at the competitive side of defending too, tackling for example. But has spoken himself about needing to brush up on the tactical side in 2022 when speaking to Irish journalist on U21 duty.
“It’s (Serie A) definitely a lot more tactical than the Championship. In the Championship it’s more physical and tackling-wise as well, you have to be smart because players will just go down. I’ve done some strong tackles, good tackles, but then I’ve been booked afterwards, so that’s the main difference, I’ve learned a lot since going. I’ve learned different ways of defending, different ways of attacking, just all parts of my game.
It’s a small sample size and not always the best metric for defensive quality but his ‘Defensive duels won’ – 62.2% from 58.3% has improved from last season along with ‘Loose ball duels won’ – 60% up from 30.8%. but his ‘ariel duels %’ and ‘Interceptions are down. Again, it’s a small sample size of around 360 minutes from this season.
Once described by his former manager Wayne Rooney as someone who can be a “Superstar” and how “just by sheer pace and power alone, he has got something which every player wants. The next part of that is the details, the little aspects of his game, which I talk about after matches. If he gets them right, he can go right to the top.
According to Wyscout he is contracted to Udinese until 2027 however with their ownership links with other clubs around Europe (including Watford) a good 2023/24 in Italy’s topflight may see Ebosele cement his place as a starter at international level and be transferred to a bigger team or league. At 21 he already has experience at international level, In the Championship in England and Serie A so he is definitely one-to-watch for bigger clubs in the Top five leagues.