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One To Watch: Kamaldeen Sulemana

One To Watch: Kamaldeen Sulemana

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Publish on 08/10 at 06:11 - D. CROSSAN

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Ghanaian international Kamaldeen Sulemana made a sensational start to Ligue 1 Uber Eats life, netting on his Rennes debut and celebrating in acrobatic fashion. There's much more to come from the Black Star.

Only 14 minutes were on the clock of Sulemana's home debut against Lens when the 19-year-old scored a stupendous goal, taking Steven Fortes out of the game before firing in with the aid of a post. The athletic Sulemana celebrated with a succession of flips that left team-mate Benjamin Bourigeaud suggesting the winger could have competed in gymnastics at the Olympics.

Impressed Rennes coach Bruno Genesio said : "We saw his speed and the rhythm he puts into play, but also his ability in front of goal. He's capable of doing that with his left foot as well. I thought he was very structured in his defensive play, as he put in a lot of effort in getting back into position and in his pressing. It was a very encouraging debut."

Rennes fight off Ajax and Premier League clubs

Last season it took star summer recruit Jérémy Doku six months to open his Rennes account, whereas Sulemana made an instant impact, making the 15 million euros paid to Danish club FC Nordsjaelland look like a bargain. Rennes had to battle off competition from some giants of the European game in order to secure the services of Sulemana on a five-year contract. Sporting Director Florian Maurice explained: "We did what we needed to do to attract him to Rennes. It wasn't something that was going to be easy as we were in competition with Ajax and Premier League clubs."

Mature and relaxed when presented to the press in mid-July, Sulemana is convinced he made the right choice to come to Brittany. "With Rennes, I get to play in Ligue 1 which is one of the best leagues in the world," he said. "I chose here as I think there's a better chance of me playing that at some of the other clubs who were interested. I will play against great teams here.

"I thought that here was the right place for me" and Essien advice

"I chose Rennes because when I came here for the visit I spoke to the coach and to Florian (Maurice) and the project was very interesting and it was good for me. I thought that here was the right place for me. They have a lot of young talent and they've produced a lot of good talent, the likes of (Ousmane) Dembélé and (Eduardo) Camavinga. This is the place for me to improve myself and get to where I want to be in the future."

Sulemana is the fourth Ghanaian to play for Rennes, following in the footsteps of John Mensah, John Boye and Asamoah Gyan but it was to another Ghanaian former Ligue 1 star that the player turned to for advice:  "I didn't speak to any of the Ghanaians who have played here. The only player I spoke to was Michael Essien because he's a coach at FC Nordsjaelland and also my neighbour so we spoke about this league. He played at Bastia and Lyon and I spoke to him about the league and how interesting it could be for my development."

Known simply as Kamaldeen - which is what is on the back of his Rennes shirt -  to Ghanaian fans, he made his international debut in October 2020 and looks set for a stellar career with the Black Stars and at club level. The international call-up inspired Sulemana to new heights for Nordsjaelland and he finished last season with 10 league goals in 29 matches.

"Doucement, doucement"

Born in Techiman on February 15 2002, Sulemana came up through the Right to Dream Academy before moving to Denmark as a 17-year-old in January 2020. His progress has been rapid and he's taking everything in his stride, including settling into a predominantly French-speaking dressing room. Sulemana said: "Birger (Meling) speaks good English and Nayef (Aguerd) speaks a bit of English. My French is not too bad so I can understand when they speak 'doucement, doucement' (slowly, slowly)!"

The Ghanaian has already won over the fans, staff and his fellow players with Bourigeaud commenting: "He's a young player who brings his freshness and insouciance to the team. He's a very joyful character. It's a pleasure to see him smile in the morning."

>> Sulemana nets on debut as Rennes draw with Lens