Ibrahim Aliyu – a Nigerian talent nobody knows about by Juan Pablo Pereira
Name: Ibrahim Aliyu
Place of birth: Kano
Club: Houston Dynamo FC
Ibrahim Aliyu was a touted Nigerian prospect in his youth. After a couple of years in Croatia, the Houston Dynamo Football Club splashed 2.1 million Euros on the Nigerian international this past April. Ever since his arrival, the Dynamo have gone through a resurgence, beating the starlings of the football world in the U.S Open Cup final.
When we talk about forwards, and strikers in particular, goals are the defining factor. However, looking at the goal count without some other sort of context is a risky road to go down. If you look at Aliyu Ibrahim’s goal and assist tally in MLS, you might assume that he’s an average 21-year old talent, but in reality, when you start to dig a little deeper, Ibrahim Aliyu might be one of the best youngsters in MLS today.
Final Third Ability:
Let’s take a look at the basics. Aliyu has 5 G/A in 22 MLS games. However, in all competitions, Aliyu has 9 G/A across 31 games. This number is buffed by his spectacular form in the U.S Open Cup, in which he had 3 goals and 1 assist in 5 cup matches.
All in all, these numbers aren’t bad, but they’re not amazing. I will admit that Aliyu has a knack for not finishing chances that are presumably “simple.” According to Football Reference (fbref.com), Aliyu has an xG of 5.4 in MLS compared to his actual goal tally of 3. A good look at the film confirms this assessment. Aliyu processes the game differently in the box, and that is not a good thing. Many times, he won’t have that cutting edge and reaction time needed to score. This can be developed, of course, but it is frustrating to see him missing some “easy” chances.
However, Aliyu is incredible when it comes to quality in the final third. While he doesn’t pass often, he can hold his own in tight spaces. His runs are very efficient as well, and his teammates can easily link up with him in close proximity
So, with some further context, you can see what Aliyu is good at and what he is not good at. Aliyu is incredible with the ball and he still has room to improve. Aliyu isn’t great when it comes to his aerial game, but his pressing is outstanding. Aliyu is incredible at being at the right place at the right time and putting himself in a position to succeed. Aliyu still needs to work on his final touch and overall quality in front of goal. Overall, Aliyu is a rough diamond that needs some refining.
When looking at players who share similarities with Aliyu, the first name that jumps out to me is Vitor Roque. The future Barcelona player is one of the top prospects in Brazilian football, but believe it or not, he’s eerily similar to Ibrahim Aliyu, at least when it comes to progressive play and defensive responsibility.
Now, Vitor Roque does have a better final touch than Aliyu, and there is no question about that. However, the way both of these young talents play is very similar. They are very good at pressing, and they’re also excellent when it comes to making runs. They both don’t pass very often, but they have the capacity to give you a couple of assists. The main difference between the two players is efficiency.
Keeping this all in mind, I believe that Ibrahim Aliyu has a legitimate case for being one of the best U-22 players in MLS. If he can improve his finishing and overall game sense, I wouldn’t be surprised if Aliyu starts to attract interest from European teams.