Transfer Window Hidden Gems: Milot Rashica is the Luis Suarez replacement Barcelona need

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The rumour mill is filled with transfer speculation linking household names and high-profile young talents with big-money moves to some of Europe’s top sides.

With the inflated prices being bandied about, clubs would do well to look past the names and identify potential superstars based on encouraging performances that may have been overlooked.

Promising talents often don’t get the attention they deserve because they’re featuring in lesser clubs away from the limelight of a title challenge or the recognition that comes with topping the charts for goals or assists.

A more extensive search though could unearth some hidden gems scattered across the European circuit and in this series, we put some of those players in the spotlight.

Werder Bremen’s tenacious forward Milot Rashica makes our latest edition.

STYLE OF PLAY

The first word that comes to mind when describing Rashica’s game is ‘busy’.

He’s the sort of forward who is never stationary. Always running, always thinking and always making some move or the other to create an opening.

Rashica’s only 1.7 metres tall and his low centre of gravity aids him in driving defenders up the wall with his sharp turns and bursts of acceleration. It’s his pace that saw him begin his career out wide but at Bremen he’s developed into more of a centre forward with the licence to roam.

He often drifts wide to exploit space and favours the left flank from where he can cut inside and have a shot at goal.

Rashica excels with his link-up play as his one-touch passing, flick-ons and lay-offs in the final third are key to creating opportunities for the team. With 1.7 key passes per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga last season, it’s evident that his mind is just as sharp as his feet.

The Kosovo international has the ability to score spectacular goals as well and is something of a dead-ball specialist. While his small stature means he poses little threat in the air, his hold-up play is surprisingly strong, confirming the suspicion that he may be skilled enough to operate as a lone striker.

Under Bremen coach Florian Kohfeldt, Rashica’s energy has also been channelled into contributions off the ball. He presses well from the front and is constantly looking to close down players or track back to make tackles.

Kohfeldt has also been quick to spot the X-factor the diminutive forward brings to the table.

“Milot has a brilliant shot, whether from distance or in the penalty area,” the young German coach explains.

“His right foot is a dangerous weapon. On top of that, you have his small stature that makes him hard to stop.

“Milot can make the difference at any time with an individual action. That’s a valuable asset. You find such players very rarely.”

KEY STAT

When playing as a forward, Rashica attempted more tackles per 90 minutes (2.4) than any other in the Bundesliga last season and ranked second for tackles won per 90 minutes (1.3).

SIMILAR TO – Luis Suarez

Nutmegs. Luis Suarez loves them and so does Rashica. Both forwards share an unpredictable dribbling style and the audacity to practice it in impossibly tight areas where often the only way forward is to poke the ball through a defender’s legs.

While that’s eye-catching and speaks volumes of their ability, it also lends to a modest success rate. Last season, the Barcelona striker attempted 2.7 dribbles per game in La Liga to Rashica’s 2.9 per game in the Bundesliga. However, the former only successfully completed 40 per cent of his dribbles and the latter only 43 per cent.

Both lack height with the 32-year-old only five centimetres taller than Rashica and while he’s better than his younger counterpart in the air, he isn’t particularly renowned for his aerial prowess.

Like Suarez, Rashica is relentless whether he’s making countless forward runs, hassling defenders off the ball or vacating his role up front to affect the game. Finally, they are both capable of scoring sensational goals and have a similar style of taking free-kicks.

Luis Suarez

CURRENT STATUS

Rashica was handed his senior debut with Kosovo outfit Vushtrria at only 16. At Vitesse the following year he began to make an impression as an exciting winger and earned a move to Bremen three seasons later.

Given his rapid progress to the first XI and his searing pace on the pitch, his team-mates have nicknamed him ‘Rocket Man’.

His contract at the German club runs until the summer of 2022 with transfermarkt.co.uk placing his market value at £18 million.

WHERE HE COULD THRIVE

Barcelona: Luis Suarez is still a quality striker and the Catalans will want to retain him as their first-choice striker but he’s no spring chicken either. The Uruguayan’s powers have been on the wane and in Rashica they could get the perfect deputy who shares many of the same qualities.

Bayern Munich: The German champions have a habit of recruiting from within the Bundesliga and Rashica would not only serve as a relief striker for the overworked Robert Lewandowski but could also fill in on the flanks where the Bavarians are a little short following the departures of Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery.

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