Mateo Kovacic, Amin Younes and Sofiane Boufal among world's best dribblers with no end product

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Mateo Kovacic

There’s an entire sub-culture dedicated to skillful football and for fans, even journalists, of a certain generation, it’s one which has likely been ignored or sneered at.

Yet type ‘football tricks’ into YouTube and the search will blast results into the millions.

Players like Eden Hazard, Lionel Messi and Neymar have left us drooling with their dribbling, but what makes those magicians standout is that there’s almost always a payoff.

Some players possess the same skill, but instead of drooling, we’re left spitting out our vexation in disgust with what comes next.

Think of the exasperating feeling when watching a gymnast’s floor routine, full of power and poise, and it ended in a collapsing heap on landing.

That is the same frustration emitted when watching the following five players who have all the quality, but virtually no end product.

Adama Traore, Wolves

1606 Best dribbles

If Traore was tagged to the stock market, his price would rise with the ball at his feet and then drop sharply as soon as it leaves his possession.

Volatile is about the best way to frame the 23-year-old up because he is all cheetah-like speed, but no bite.

He’s been gifted with frightening natural pace and size which enables him to bulldoze through defences, yet his decision-making, delivery and shot-taking is maddeningly abysmal.

His playbook was best displayed in the 1-1 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford last season.

Brought into fold late on, Traore’s impact was immediate. In one sequence, he received possession deep in his half, shunted the ball out in front of him and through a combination of searing pace and strength, muscled past three players en route to the edge of United’s box.

No prizes for guessing what happened next, the Spaniard sliced his effort horribly wide.

Unfortunately, that scenario is not in isolation for Traore and it makes sense that the former Barcelona wideman managed just one goal and one assist in 29 Premier League games last season, despite ranking eighth for successful dribbles with 65.

Amin Younes, Napoli

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Ask Ajax fans about Amin Younes and the response would be a despairing sigh, mixed with the weight of complete irreverence.

That’s because the German is a cruel twist of lucid instinct followed by repeated brain farts, inflating his hype with intoxicating skill before leaving behind a flatulent mess.

It’s curious that the diminutive Younes can be so fluid when weaving in between players, but then completely freeze when it’s time to release the ball.

If the obvious option is to shoot, Younes will pass and conversely if the best option is to pass, he’ll shoot. And neither option taken are with any accuracy.

Few Ajax fans were sad to see him leave when he departed for Napoli last year, but then after attempting to wiggle out of a pre-contract agreement with the Serie A side, the Nepalese weren’t exactly screaming with joy either.

Injuries derailed his 2018/19 season and yet despite only playing 12 games, his 1.5 successful dribbles per game was the most for Napoli.

But besides his exquisite dribbling ability, there isn’t much else to shout about. The left winger has registered more than four goals in a season once in his career and has never hit double figures for assists or goals ever.

Allan Saint-Maximin, Nice

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At 22-years old, the Nice attacker remains housed in the raw-and-in-need-of-refinement category.

But for such a skillful player, 15 goals and 15 assists since debuting in the 2013/14 season is not the type of return which matches his saucy talent.

Considering no player from Europe’s top-five leagues attempted more dribbles (252) and only one managed more completed (his 143 was one less than Sofiane Boufal, more on him later) a more tangible effect on the scoreline should be expected.

The Frenchman has bags of style, evidenced by his slick celebration dance moves, but has a frustrating habit of twisting and turning down blind alleys.

He’s been accused of over complicating play and slowing games down in order to pull out a shuffle or jive, which explains his low numbers.

Entrusted with a central role for Nice last season, Saint-Maximin did make the type of noise to match his moves.

But he must trust his team-mates and by extension his shooting ability to move into the upper echelons and away from lists such as this one.

Mateo Kovacic, Real Madrid

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There might not be another player on the planet with the technical ability of Kovacic who fails to make any impact in the final third.

It’s comical how bad his shooting technique is when you think about the level of talent we’re talking about.

The 25-year-old has scored more than one goal in a single campaign once and that arrived during his best season to date at Inter in 2014/15 when, drum roll please, five goals were struck. Kovacic’s assists tally fares no better either with four the season prior to that his best mark.

An article in FourFourTwo earlier this year asked whether Kovacic, who was on loan at Chelsea last term, is the most pointless player in the Premier League, and it’s hard not to answer with a resounding yes.

In midfield, he neither destructs or constructs, merely showing an ability to keep the structure sound with excellent ball retention, wriggling out of danger and passing the accurately.

Only two Chelsea players attempted more dribbles in the league than Kovacic last season (Eden Hazard and Pedro) while in the Europa League he was third for successful take-ons.

How many goals and assists in both tournaments? A grand total of two assists. For comparison, Ross Barkley contributed to 11 goals and the pair spent the entire season on a personal carousel between the bench and pitch.

Kovacic is the definition of all style and no substance.

Sofiane Boufal, Southampton

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Referring to the earlier YouTube search, tap Sofiane Boufal into the web and a video of his highlight reel pops up and it’s named ‘The Moroccan Genius’.

If the Southampton winger is a genius, then he’s a flawed one.

The owner of the most successful dribbles from Europe’s top-five leagues with 144 while on loan at La Liga side Celta Vigo in 2018/19, Boufal returned just three goals and three assists.

Incidentally, that explains why in each clip of his highlights video the editor sharply segues into another shimmy and pirouette as opposed to what happens once he gets past an opponent.

Granted, Boufal plays the game as if on the streets of Brazil, alone on the streets of Brazil that is, because he’s not exactly what you would call a team player.

His objective is to take on as many players as possible, virtually ignoring passing options to do so.

Occasionally, his high technical ceiling results in a stunning goal – he’s a Marco Asensio light in that regard.

A winner against Girona and another sublime strike versus Sevilla hallmarked his mad genius. But ultimately, his greed for dribbling has starved him of a better stat line.

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