Tottenham and Liverpool are both interested in Vitoria de Guimaraes forward Moussa Marega and could go head-to-head for the Malian international's signature in the summer. Marega, 25, is currently on loan at Vitoria from Porto and has been in fine form for Os Vimaranenses, scoring 12 goals and providing two assists in just 17 league matches this season.
His rise to prominence has come somewhat late in his career, but after a stint in the Tunisian league and a spell in the third division of French football, the man dubbed 'The Malian Jamie Vardy' is making a name for himself in Europe and could be set to arrive on one of the continent's biggest – if not the biggest - footballing stage sooner rather than later.
Born on 14 April 1991 in Les Ulis, Paris, the same commune Thierry Henry and Anthony Martial hail from, Marega has had to endure a rather turbulent footballing ride when compared to the aforementioned Frenchmen.
He began his career with French minnows Evry FC, founded in 2011 after city rivals Ville d'Evry andL'Association Sportive Evry merged after the latter dissolved. Marega's stay with the Essonne-based outfit was short-lived, he soon found himself plying his trade for fifth-tier side Vendee Poire-sur-Vie and impressed enough to earn a move to Ligue 2 outfit Amiens in 2013.
His spell with The Unicorns was short and sweet, too, and in 2014 he was on the move again, this time to 26-time Tunisian League winners Esperance. By this time Marega had developed into a fully-fledged nomad and – you guessed it –he switched clubs a year later.
Maritimo decided to gamble on a 23-year-old striker with no top-flight credentials to speak of, but The Green and Reds' £64,000 risk reaped reward as Marega managed to score eight goals and provide five assists in 19 starts in all competitions.
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His performances drew the attention of Porto, who snaffled up his services before farming him out on loan to Vitoria, where he has been catching the eye of the cream of the crop in England. If he manages to keep up his tremendous form for Pedro Martins' men, Porto may be tempted to hold on to the seven capped Mali international beyond the summer or at least command a fee close to the £34.6m release clause they inserted in his contract last year.
A hulking presence at the head of Vitoria's attack, Marega would seemingly have no problems adjusting to the physicality of the Premier League. He is no slouch either, with his powerful running style similar to that of Tottenham misfit Moussa Sissoko, while his willingness to drop deep, harry and pressurise opponents is a trait most Premier League managers are looking for in potential new signings.
Moussa Marega's 2016-17 stats
Shots per game: 2.5
Pass success rate: 60.7%
Billed as 'The Malian Jamie Vardy' due to his unorthodox rise to top-flight football, Marega is predictably a rough diamond as his career path would suggest. Technically found wanting when running at defences, Marega does have the ability to go past an opponent but does not seem completely comfortable with the ball at his feet. His 60.7% pass success rate unfortunately provides further evidence of his lack of refinement.
Along with that, his aerial prowess leaves a lot to be desired and he looks a rather one-dimensional finisher. Certainly not a man who can score all types of goals, like Harry Kane or Roberto Firmino.
Those rough edges could be smoothed by Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino or Liverpool head honcho Jurgen Klopp, two managers with a knack of developing unfancied talents into fully-fledged Premier League stars. The Reds and the Lilywhites were both linked with a move for Marega in January, along with struggling Sunderland, as questions loom over the depth of their respective frontlines.
In Kane and Firmino, Pochettino and Klopp have two forwards who fit their respective systems like a glove. Scratch beneath the surface, though, and it's rather unpleasant reading, especially for Tottenham. Dutch striker Vincent Janssen has not taken to life in North London well, while Son Heung-min is primarily a wide player and looks uncomfortable when attempting to fill the considerable void left by the wondrous Kane.
Klopp has more quality striking options available to him at Anfield, though questions remain over the constantly crocked Daniel Sturridge, who could well leave the club at the end of the season, and Danny Ings, who has been terribly unlucky with injuries over the last few years.
While there are better and perhaps more alluring strikers that could potentially be available this summer, Marega could prove to be a shrewd purchase for Tottenham or Liverpool.
The 25-year-old would seemingly have no problems fitting into a high-pressing style of play, his career trajectory highlights a burning desire to improve and develop – a trait admired by both Klopp and Pochettino – and he would add much-needed competition and cover to two attacks that would certainly benefit from an extra body.
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