Latest Posts

Mahamadou Diawara – Player Profile

Mahamadou Diawara is a French midfielder of Malian descent who primarily plays a roving ‘box-to-box’ role. He signed for Lyon as a free agent in June 2023 having spent the previous five years on the books of Paris Saint-Germain.

The eighteen-year-old was disappointed to only be offered a trainee contract by the Parisian club last summer, having impressed in the PSG youth setup, so he rejected their proposal and left to further his career elsewhere. Lyon made a quick move to capture his signature and Diawara was happy to relaunch his career in the Rhône.

Fast-tracked to the first team

Diawara was signed as one for the future and was expected to spend most of his first season in Lyon playing for the reserve team in the Championnat National 3 Groupe K. Indeed, that’s where he made his club debut, playing in central midfield in a 4-3 win against Clermont Foot B at the Groupama OL Academy ground under the watchful tutelage of former Lyon midfielder Gueida Fofana.

However, Diawara only made two further appearances for the reserves, in draws against Valence and Vaulx-en-Velin, before he was called up to bolster the struggling first team squad in Ligue 1 under recently appointed manager Fabio Grosso. He was thrown straight into the starting XI against Lorient at the Groupama Stadium on the 10th of August and played for sixty minutes before has was replaced in midfield by Corentin Tolisso with Lyon leading 3-2. Unfortunately they couldn’t hold on after he was substituted and they ended up drawing 3-3.

Diawara has featured in every Lyon Ligue 1 fixture since then, although he is yet to complete ninety minutes. He was used as a substitute in the home defeat to Clermont Foot and the away win at Rennes either side of his second start in the home draw against Metz. His third start came in the 2-0 home defeat to Lille, but he was withdrawn at half time as Grosso continued to chop and change his team. The Italian was relieved of his position as Lyon manager following that match, so it remains to be seen whether his successor will continue to experiment with Diawara or will revert to more experienced players for the battle against relegation.

International recognition

Mahamadou Diawara received his first call-up to the French U-19 national team squad in November 2023 and he featured in all three of their Euro U-19 Championship qualifiers during that international break. His debut came as a late substitute in a 2-0 win against Estonia at the Stade de la Source in Orléans. He got a few more minutes in a 1-0 win over Iceland at the same venue a few days later and then played the full ninety away at Denmark as Bernard Diomède’s selection succumbed to a 2-1 defeat.

During his final season with PSG, Diawara made sixteen appearances for the Paris Saint-Germain U-19 team in their Championnat National U-19 campaign. They finished second, behind Lens in their regionalised league but made it through to the final of the national play-offs where they lost 2-1 to Nantes, with Diawara coming off the bench to replace Naoufel El Hannach for the last eight minutes. Diawara also appeared as a substitute in three of PSG’s UEFA Youth League group stage matches, against Maccabi Haifa and Benfica (twice).

Ultimately, his future lay away from the capital and his path to the first team at PSG would certainly have been more arduous that it has proved at Lyon, where he’s already getting opportunities. He looks like a very promising young prospect and it will be interesting to watch how he develops as he matures.

Bilbao and Lyon top big five leagues for home-grown players

The Football Observatory at the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) has published a world ranking of football clubs showing which have fielded the most home-grown players in domestic league matches so far this season. The results make for very interesting reading from the perspective of this website because Athletic Club and Olympique Lyonnais are top of the table as far as Europe’s ‘Big 5’ leagues are concerned.

In fact, Athletic Club are way out ahead of everyone else. That’s in no small part due to their cantera policy of signing only players who were born or trained at youth level in the Basque Country. 68.9% of all their player minutes so far this season have been from club-trained players.

CIES uses the UEFA definition of ‘club-trained’ meaning that a player must have been at the club for at least three years between the ages of fifteen and twenty-one. Athletic Club have fielded fourteen players who meet that criteria so far this season: Unai Simón, Vivian, Paredes, Yeray, Imanol, Sancet, Ruiz de Galarreta, Prados, Unai Gómez, Iñaki Williams, Muniain, Nico Williams, Guruzeta and Villalibre.

Olympique Lyonnais may be struggling in Ligue 1 so far this season, but the fact that they’re doing so with a large cohort of home-grown players shows that there’s hope for the future and that the club’s esteemed academy is still regularly feeding into the first team squad. They have used nine ‘club-trained’ players so far this season, for a total of 45.6% of their combined minutes played. That figure puts them just ahead of third placed Real Sociedad in the ranking.

Basques dominating the top spots

The table is yet more proof, if it were ever needed, that the Basque Country is a veritable hotbed of football talent. Not only are Athletic Club and Real Sociedad in the top three, but Osasuna are sixth meaning that clubs from the region occupy half of the top six places. The screenshot below shows the top clubs in the ranking:

CIES ranking of Big 5 league teams by % minutes played by club trained players in 2023-24.
CIES ranking of Big 5 league teams by % minutes played by club trained players in 2023-24.

There’s also encouraging news for Manchester United. They have made the top twenty in the ranking, having fielded five ‘club-trained’ players so for this campaign for 20.4% of their total playing minutes. That puts them second in terms of English Premier League clubs, not far behind Arsenal.

You can find the CIES post with the full statistics here on their excellent website.

North Macedonia 1-1 England

England concluded their UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying campaign with a 1-1 draw against North Macedonia in front of 27,982 fans at the Toše Proeski National Arena in Skopje. It was a fairly insipid performance blighted by some poor refereeing but the result was of little importance since England had already secured top spot in Group C.

There were a few changes to the England team following Friday night’s 2-0 win over Malta. Notably, Manchester City’s eighteen year old starlet Rico Lewis was handed a debut at left-back and Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins was given a chance to make an impression up front.

England started reasonably well and almost opened the scoring through Declan Rice when the Arsenal midfielder’s shot beat the ‘keeper but came back off the post. However, they were affording chances to the North Macedonians and were lucky not to concede a penalty when Harry Maguire carelessly gave the ball away and then clattered into Elmas inside the box.

VAR Controversy

North Macedonia were awarded a penalty shortly before half-time, but it was a highly controversial one. Lewis was the unfortunate fall-guy on the end of a poor VAR decision. He had jumped and headed the ball cleanly away from danger but a flailing hand brushed the face on the on-rushing North Macedonian striker Bojan Miovski, who went down clasping his head.

Pickford produced a fine save to deny Enis Bardhi from the spot, but he could only push the ball back out in front of the goal and Bardhi made no mistake with the rebound to give the Macedonians the lead going into the interval.

England thought they had equalised within a couple of minutes of the restart when Saka’s cross was slotted home by Jack Grealish at the far post, but the Manchester City winger was just offside. Inexplicably, a three minute delay to proceedings was required for the VAR officials to arrive at what looked like a fairly clear-cut decision.

Harry Kane was introduced to replace the ineffective Watkins just before the hour mark as England manager Gareth Southgate decided to try and force the issue. They Bayern Munich striker had an instant impact, winning a header from a corner that deflected off Atanasov and into the net for an own goal.

England continued to push for a winner, and Rashford, Phillips and Palmer were brought on with six minutes to go in order to freshen things up but the North Macedonian defence held firm and the game finished a goal apiece.

Heading for the finals in Germany

England topped Group C with twenty points and an unbeaten record of six wins and two draws from their eight qualifying matches, and a goal difference of plus eighteen. They were six points clear of Italy and Ukraine who played out a goalless draw in Germany on the same evening, meaning that the Italians snuck through by the skin of their teeth. England will go into the first pot of seeds for the finals draw that takes place on the 2nd of December.

Wins for Bilbao Athletic and Basconia

Bilbao Athletic earned a hard-fought 1-0 away win against CD Calahorra in their Segunda Federación Group 2 clash on Sunday. It was the tenth consecutive victory for Carlos Gurpegui’s team and it leaves them six points clear of second placed Tudelano at the top of the table after twelve games of the 2023-34 season.

Calahorra, from the La Rioja region about an hour and forty-five minutes drive from Bilbao, are a mid-table side and they frustrated the visitors for almost an hour before Urko Izeta broke the deadlock and scored what turned out to be the only goal of the game.

Next weekend Bilbao Athletic welcome Tudelano to Lezama for a top-of-the-table crunch match and the chance to deal a direct blow to their closest title rivals.

Earlier in the day, CD Basconia had beaten SD Leioa 3-1 at home in their Tercera Federación Group 4 fixture. The fell behind early on but equalised just before half time through Aimar Vicandi. Vicandi got his second of the game with ten minutes remaining to give Basconia the lead and Ieltxu García clinched it with the third in the 87th minute.

Basconia are now fifth in the table on twenty points after eleven games. They are six points behind the league leaders, CD Vitoria and they face a tough looking away trip to CD Deusto next weekend.

OL U19 3-1 Pagny-sur-Moselle

Jérémie Bréchet’s Olympique Lyonnais Under-19 team got back to winning ways on Sunday with a 3-1 victory at home to struggling AS Pagny-sur-Moselle at their OL Academy ground in Meyzieu.

After a goalless first half, it was Lyon who finally managed to force the issue and break the deadlock when Erawan Garnier was fouled in the box and Bryan Meyo converted from twelve yards.

However, Pagny fought back well and grabbed a 65th minute equaliser to set up a tense final twenty-five minutes during which both sides threatened to take the three points.

In the end, it was Lyon who prevailed with a pair of late goals from Emerson Pedro Vanga and Oliver Mvouama, the latter scoring in added time to wrap things up. Having lost three on the bounce, it was an important result for Lyon and was especially impressive considering that the team contained several debutants.

Lyon now sit in second place in the 2023-24 Championnat National U19 Group B table, but are still a massive eleven points behind runaway leaders Auxerre after twelve games of the season. Next weekend, Bréchet’s squad must make the trip up to Strasbourg, who sit just three points behind them in the table.

England U19 beat Japan in Marbella

Simon Rusk’s England U19 team gained a second win in as many matches when then narrowly beat Japan in Marbella on Saturday. They had recorded an emphatic 6-0 victory over Romania three days earlier but it was a much tighter affair this time out as they beat the Japanese youngsters by the odd goal in five.

It was a strong England line-up featuring Manchester United’s highly rated central midfielder Kobbie Mainoo wearing the number ten shirt, and his United team mate Elyh Harrison was on the bench.

England opened the scoring in the 13th minute with a penalty converted by Manchester City’s Jacob Wright after Millwall winger Romain Esse had been brought down. The lead was doubled just after the half hour mark with a goal from Tottenham forward Will Lankshear.

England had had much the better of the first period but Japan came out for the second half with renewed vigour and stormed back into the match with a quickfire pair of strikes from Shiogai Kento not long after the restart.

Mainoo was substituted for Jamie Donley in the 76th minute and it was the newly introduced Spurs forward who eventually grabbed the winner, firing home in the last minute of normal time to seal a 3-2 victory.

England U19 conclude their mini tour with a match against Mexico on Tuesday (21st November), which kicks off at 17:00 GMT.

Valencia Women 1-2 Athletic Club Women

Athletic Club de Bilbao’s women’s team earned an impressive away win against Valencia in the Liga F on Saturday evening. They bounced back from the previous weekend’s disappointing 2-1 home defeat to Madrid CF to beat Valencia by the same scoreline.

Clara Pinedo opened the scoring for Athletic Club in the 43rd minute with a penalty kick but the home side levelled the scores through Pauleta in the 68th minute. The game looked to be heading towards a draw until substitute Patricia Zugasti struck a winner with just four minutes or regulation time remaining.

The victory takes David Aznar’s team up to seventh place in the Liga F table with twelve points from their first nine matches. Next up they face league leaders Barcelona at home (26th November) and will attempt to become the first team to take any points from the reigning champions this season.

Serbia U21 0-3 England U21

England‘s Under-21 selection beat their Serbian counterparts 3-0 in front of a crowd of around 1,200 at the TSC Arena in Bačka Topola to boost their chances of automatic qualification for the 2025 UEFA European Under-21 Championship, which is to be held in Slovakia.

England got off to a flying start thanks to Manchester City midfielder James McAtee, who is currently plying his trade on-loan at Sheffield United. He bagged an early brace of goals to quell the home fans and calm any England nerves.

The scoreline stayed at 2-0 to the visitors until ten minutes into the second half when Liverpool’s Harvey Elliott struck from range to put the result beyond doubt. England saw out the game to complete an emphatic double over the Serbs, who they had beaten 9-1 at The City Ground back in October.

Putting the pressure on Ukraine

The result leaves coach Lee Carsley’s England U21 team sitting in second place in qualification Group F after four matches. They are three points behind leaders Ukraine, who beat Luxembourg 4-0 the previous day. Only the top team will progress automatically to the finals. The second placed team will enter the play-offs.

England’s next fixture is against Northern Ireland at Goodison Park on Tuesday 21st November 2023. The Irish currently sit bottom of Group F with one win and three defeats from their opening four matches, so on paper it looks like it should be another straightforward win for Carsley’s boys.

It looks set to be a straight race between England and Ukraine for top spot in the group. The decisive match could well be Ukraine’s visit to England in October next year in the penultimate round of fixtures. England were narrowly beaten when they played their ‘away’ fixture against Ukraine last month, losing 3-2 with the winner coming deep into stoppage time. That match took place in Košice, Slovakia, due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Late rally sees off spirited Dijon

Olympique Lyonnais Women produced a fine second half display to complete a fight-back against Dijon and secure a 4-1 win in a Friday night Division 1 clash at the Groupama OL Training Center.

Perhaps tiredness from the exertions of their midweek trip to Prague and the 9-0 thumping of Slavia Prague was to blame for Lyon’s slow start and they found themselves a goal behind when Maria Diaz put Dijon ahead in the 25th minute. However, that goal acted as a wake-up call and Lyon struck back nine minutes later through right-back Alice Sombath.

Nevertheless, struggling Dijon, who are still in search of their first win of the season, refused to roll over and the deadlock lasted until the interval and well into the second period.

Lyon coach Sonia Bompastor introduced a few of the big guns to try to force the issue, with Danielle Van de Donk and Lindsey Horan entering the fray at half time and Sara Daebritz and Ada Hegerberg coming off the bench in the 63rd minute.

Eventually they found a breakthrough courtesy of Melchie Dumornay on 70 minutes and Hegerberg made it 3-1 three minutes later. With Dijon’s spirit finally broken, Sara Daebritz completed the scoring with a minute of normal time remaining.

Lyon therefore maintained their 100% record in Division 1, with eight wins from eight games and are six points clear of Paris FC, although the Parisians now have a game in hand.

England lose to Brazil but still win group

England’s Under-17 team suffered a 2-1 defeat to their Brazilian counterparts in their final first round match at the FIFA U17 World Cup in Indonesia. However, the result was sufficient to see them hold onto top spot in Group C and progress to the knockout stages as group winners.

Brazil took the lead shortly before half time at the 82,000 capacity Jakarta International Stadium. The ball broke free to Kaua Elias inside the England box and the forward lashed home past a helpless Tommy Setford in the England goal.

The crowd of 15,171 was the largest of the tournament so far for a game not involving the hosts, and they witnessed Brazil doubling their advantage in the 54th minute through defender Mata Da.

A two goal lead meant that Brazil had leapfrogged England at the top of the group on goal difference. The Young Lions needed to find a response and they did so when Manchester City’s Joel Ndala scored from the penalty spot in the 71st minute.

Small margins separate the top three

Thereafter, the score remained the same and Iran’s 5-0 win over the hapless New Caledonians in the other Group C fixture meant that England, Brazil and Iran all finished level on six points.

Goal difference was the tie breaker and England’s +10 was one better than Brazil’s and five clear of Iran. However, all three teams will go through to the Round of Sixteen as Iran are one of the best third placed sides.

Ryan Garry’s England U17 team had looked impressive in beating New Caledonia 10-0 and Iran 2-1 in their opening matches, so this result is only a minor setback. Winning the group means that they will remain in Jakarta and will face the third placed team from Group A or B in the next round. That means either the hosts, Indonesia, or Uzbekistan.

From a Manchester United perspective, defensive midfielder Finley McAllister is the only club representative in this England squad. He came off the bench with half an hour remaining in the opening game against New Caledonia and scored the tenth goal in stoppage time.

He didn’t feature in the match against Iran but he was in the starting line up versus Brazil and was replaced by Arsenal’s Myles Lewis-Skelly just after the hour mark.