Name – M’Baye Babacar Niang
DOB – 19 December 1994 (age 17)
Height – 6ft 0” (1.84m)
Weight – 11st 11lbs (75kg)
Club – AC Milan
Position – Striker
Career Appearances (Goals) – 31 (5)
Prior to the beginning of the 2012/13 season Mbaye Niang was one of the most sought after talents in European football. During a busy off season for the 17 year old, it was widely reported that Arsenal, Everton & Tottenham Hotspur had all taken Niang on a trial (with Arsenal even allegedly offering his former side Caen around £6million to make the move permanent).
Despite this interest however, Niang opted to sign a three-year contract with AC Milan on the 28th August for an undisclosed fee.
So what is it about this 17 year old that had the fat cats of Europe purring?
Niang joined French club Caen at the age of 13 and quickly climbed the youth team ladder. By the time he was 15 he was regularly featuring for the club’s U-19 side. In advance of the 2010/11 season Niang was promoted to Caen’s reserve side where he went on to become top scorer after 6 games; leading to the singing of a professional contract and a call up to the senior squad within 2 months.
On the 23rd of April 2011, at the age 16 years and 114 days, Niang appeared in a Ligue 1 fixture against Toulouse and in doing so became the youngest player ever to appear for Caen.
On 7 May, Niang scored his first professional goal in a 1–1 draw with Lens, becoming the second youngest player to score a goal in Ligue 1. Niang finished his first season in professional football with a total of seven appearances (four starts) and three goals.
Despite contractual disputes in the following off season, Niang completed an entire campaign for Caen’s first team in the 2011/12 season, however only managed to find the back of the net on 2 of his 23 appearances.
Caen scouts initially had their doubts over Niang, admitting that they were informed that he was possibly a présu (a player claiming to be younger than his actual date of birth) due to the stature he possessed for a boy at such a tender age, however these claims have never been proven.
Despite already standing at 6ft tall at the age of 17 it would be foolish and inaccurate to label Niang as a target man. In fact the young forward often drifts into wide positions where he can isolate defenders one on one or cut in to create space for a shot at goal. This style has seen Niang compared to the likes of Thierry Henry.
However there is also a physical side to his game, which will only improve as Niang matures fully and makes the transition from boy to man. This process will surely be accelerated by a footballing baptism like no other at the San Siro, where Niang is being trusted to eventually fill the void left by the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to PSG.
Niang is French born with Senegalese parents however has often re-affirmed his desire to represent France at international level. He has advanced through the French youth set up and currently has 2 under-21 caps and a solitary goal scored against Latvia.
At such a young age and having shown such advancement in such a short space of time Niang is certainly a player to keep an eye on. Under the guidance of Massimiliano Allegri and having already made his full debut for Milan Niang could well develop into a striker that defenders world-wide will dread facing.
Watch this space.
Report written by Tom Pacey
Follow him on Twitter @TomRPacey
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