From scoring goals to stopping them: Didi Dramani explains Mohammed Kudus’ versatility

“I am very happy with my performance, but the whole team was strong, so that included me,” Kudus told NOS right after he was voted Man of the Match on his debut against KC Waalwijk.

If there was ever a quote that encapsulates the value of a player, then this, summarises the type of player Mohammed Kudus is. For him, it’s always been about the collective; putting the team first.

Kudus transferred from FC Nordsjælland to Ajax this summer for a fee around €9 million. The Ghanaian spent just two years in Denmark before securing his dream move. In those two years, he worked closely with Dramani Mas-Ud Didi, a coach he had met in 2015.

The pair first worked together at Right to Dream Academy in Ghana five years ago. Kudus, then 14 years, was playing as a box-to-box midfielder as he nurtured his game.

However, the Ajax player went through a “detailed transformation” when he joined FC Nordsjælland according to Didi who was speaking to exclusively to Joy Sports.

He says: “At FC Nordsjælland, Kudus got his major education in football where he developed various aspects of his game by playing in different positions as a central midfielder, false 9, wide midfield, wide attacker etc.”

In Kudus’ two years of professional football, he has played in five different positions with the Ghanaian playing 50% of his games as a central midfielder (28 games). The 20-year-old has played 39% of his games as a false 9 (22 games) with other positions being attacking midfielder (3 games), right winger (2 games) and defensive midfielder (1 game).

The numbers suggest his favoured role might be split between playing as a central midfielder or false 9 but Kudus although enjoys playing any role, loves to be higher up the pitch.

“I can play in different positions, both in attack and in midfield. You never know where you will end on the field. I’m ready for anything. Normally I play more in the front.”

Ajax coach Ten Haag described Kudus as “active and dynamic with high intensity” after the game against Waalwijk. Didi acknowledged the strengths of Kudus detailing how that allows the player to be so versatile.

“Build up positions and pressing elements are some of the major attribution in Kudus’ transitioning during the development of his huge potential talent. The False 9 brings about his versatility and dynamism (one moment he’s with the midfield and next he’s first to arrive in the box)”

These strengths have been highlighted so far in his first two games for Ajax. Against Waalwijk, Kudus demonstrated his defensive side by winning eight duels, winning five tackles and making three interceptions.

In the most recent game against Vitesse, Ajax were a man thin in midfield after Edson Alvarez was sent off in the first half. Kudus took charge in the middle of the park winning 11 duels and three tackles. This time, the Ghanaian was more progressive, completing six dribbles, two key passes and the match winning assist.

The assist is one that would make his former coach Didi proud. Kudus started Ajax’s build-up in between the centre backs, moved up as Onana went long and picked off the second ball before progressing the ball to assist Antony.

Didi believes choosing Ajax was the right move for the 20-year-old because the Dutch champions mirror the philosophies of former side Nordsjælland.

“Ajax is an absolute suit for our model and for Kudus which highlights more freedom of expression of his creativity yet structured in team work. These are all due to his major educational processes from RTD, RTD/ FCN (International academy) and finally transitioning into FCN with gradual integration and adaptation from 2018 in the style of play, values and principles all as part of his educational addictions in football.”

“He stands the possibility of winning individual awards in Holland and also bring his huge production as an import to the Black Stars and be more recognized in Africa football awards scheme in 2023,” Didi added.

In recent times, Ajax have become breeding ground for major European clubs with the club losing talents such as Frenkie De Jong, Van De Beek and Ziyech. Didi believes it won’t be long before the big clubs come calling for Kudus as well.

“Ajax as I have stated earlier is just to refine what has been put in Kudus and prepare him as a gateway to the bigger stage; Premier League, La Liga or Serie A or Bundesliga.”

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