Amongst the fanfare of Sunderland’s summer arrivals, a name stood out from the crowd. It was a name that stood out not through fanfare or column inches but more for the fact this was an entirely new name being spoken with certainty attached to his arrival.
Few, if any, had heard of Abdoullah Ba before news of his imminent signing broke merely hours before his confirmed arrival, but it’s a name now on the lips of almost every Sunderland fan.
A search for Ba prior to his arrival bore limited fruit and even to this day the column inches dedicated to the former La Havre man are still in their infancy, though it’s safe to suggest this is all about to change. Born from an academy that boasts former graduates such as Paul Pogba, Riyadh Mahrez and Dimitry Payet, Abdoullah seems to be everything you’d come to expect from an academy renowned for producing French internationals.
From even his fleeting appearances, Ba has already whipped Sunderland fans into a contained excitement that is in danger of spilling over.
With his infectious energy, that alone would endear Ba and set him on a path towards Sunderland folklore but Ba is so much more than that. Combative, controlled and intelligent - even in his cameos Ba has left his mark on the games he has played, none more so than Wednesday’s game against Huddersfield.
In a game bogged down by apocalyptic elements and the dogged determination of a relegation-threatened side it was Ba’s introduction that solidified Sunderland's hold on the game, with his drive and composure from midfield advancing Sunderland further up the pitch than the previous 60 minutes.
Due to Ba’s relatively unknown status prior to signing, his career isn’t littered with in-depth analysis and statistics which has left him at the whim of the dreaded ”eye-test” in which the aspersions cast upon him are coming primarily from what the punter sees. This is where Ba goes from being capable to something far more exciting and intangible.
What people are seeing is someone exciting but someone who glides effortlessly across the pitch, they see a player who never looks bothered in possession and never panicked when out of it.
I’m yet to see Ba play and look like he isn’t going to win any battle he chooses to engage in whilst looking so calm and in control.
Fans are seeing a player who reads the game, who clearly understands his role and flourishes in it, but also a player who seems to know what everyone else is doing before perhaps even they themselves are sure.
What Abdoullah Ba is and what he could become is exciting in equal measures.
His talent is clear to see. The way he carries that talent, as if it’s a joy rather than a burden, gives Ba an unquantifiable quality - a quality that excites, entertains and most importantly, produces.
As it stands, the next step is to see Ba start games and impose himself from the off.
It’s a feeling echoed by rakes of Sunderland fans and something Tony Mowbray will be fully aware of. For now, we must be patient as this 19-year-old talent still pieces together the infancy of his career into becoming a springboard for what is to come.
Like so many in the Sunderland ranks Ba is the irresistible mix of being young, talented and exciting - but unlike others, Abdoullah has something that nobody can quite put their finger on - some would say he has a certain je ne sais quoi about him.