There’s so much young talent coming out of Ligue 1 these days, and Metz midfielder Pape Matar Sarr is generating more hype than most.
The 18-year-old has recently been linked with an expensive move to either Chelsea, Manchester City or Manchester United, although a new report suggests a transfer to Tottenham is now edging closer to completion.
Sarr’s stock is only going to rise from this point, so it’s time to get to know him a little better.
To say Sarr is handy in a number of positions would be an enormous understatement.
The teenager spent time as a central midfielder earlier in his career and has even played as an attacking midfielder, but slowly seems to be honing his craft as a defensive-minded player.
“I am evolving as a midfielder,” Sarr told Metz’s official website. “In Senegal, I played as an 8, but here, I am used as a 6. I’m comfortable in both positions.”
If you want an idea of the confusion surrounding Sarr’s best position, the fact that he has been compared to both Liverpool winger Sadio Mane and former Chelsea midfield enforcer Michael Essien should sum up the confusion perfectly.
His father told L’Equipe that he sees Sarr as a ‘real number 10’, but Sarr’s best performances have come as a defensive midfielder.
Comparisons to the box-to-box style of Essien appear to make some sense, but those links to Mane prove that those close to Sarr feel he is capable of a lot more.
While Sarr’s father may want him in a more-advanced role, the consensus is that the youngster’s future is deeper in midfield, where Metz director Olivier Perrin compares him to Miralem Pjanic.
“I immediately knew that Sarr was going to be a top player, with a very high level when it comes to reading and analysing the game,” Perrin told Senego. “He is like Miralem Pjanic.”
However, to add to the confusion about his best position, Perrin then went on to say: “He can play in a system with two 10s, he can be central or box-to-box. He can be a 10, a 6… it depends on the coach.”
Sarr has displayed almost N’Golo Kante-esque levels of determination to pressure opponents into giving up the ball, and once he gets control of it, Sarr always looks for a long ball.
Whether that’s dipping over the centre-backs to spark a counter-attack or simply switching play to relieve some pressure, Sarr is perfectly happy spraying passes around when he gets the chance.
That’s where the connections to Pjanic make sense. It’s a quarterback-style way of playing football that is slowly starting to come back into fashion.
While Sarr may only be popping up on the global radar now, he has actually been followed by scouts for years now, with a former agent claiming Manchester City even offered around £80,000 to try and sign him when he was nine years old.
“When he was nine, a Belgian scout saw him juggle the ball and wanted to secure his services,” Mamadou Saer Barry told wiwsport. “He wanted to bring him to Manchester City and put the tidy sum of 60m CFA francs (around £80,000) on the table.”
Sarr chose to remain in Senegal until 2020, honing his craft at the famous Generation Foot academy.
After making rapid progress in youth football, Sarr was handed an international debut for Senegal in March 2021, after which PSG midfielder Idrissa Gueye did not hold back in his praise of the youngster.
“Pape Matar is a talented youngster who comes from local football,” he said. “He’s my type player, I admire him a lot. He has a lot of talent and he is the future of Senegal.”
Sarr and Gueye lined up alongside each other at the base of Senegal’s midfield and kept two clean sheets in their first two matches together.
In Senegal, Sarr earned himself the nickname ‘Carlos’, a reference to the banging free kicks made famous by Brazilian superstar Roberto Carlos.
That penchant for a worldie was on show in 2019’s Under-17 World Cup, where Sarr thundered home a glorious effort from range to fire Senegal to a stunning 4-1 victory over the United States.
The following year, at the Arab Cup, Sarr buried another stunner against Egypt to inspire a comeback victory in the semi-final.
The general feeling around Sarr is that he has all the tools needed to become a future superstar, but only if he continues to work on eradicating the flaws from his game.
“Leave Sarr alone and let him grow,” manager Frederic Antonetti told a press conference. “He still needs to improve in all areas – technique, tactics and consistency.
“Everyone knows he has a great talent, but like any 18-year-old, he still has room for improvement. He must not be disturbed.”