Generation Next is our regular scouting feature on Just Football in which we profile the upcoming young stars of tomorrow around the football world. In our last edition we headed to Brazil to feature Matheus Henriquenow we are Africa-bound to look at Zambia’s hot prospect, Patson Daka.
Name: Patson Daka
Date of Birth: October 9th 1998
Position: Striker / Wide Forward (left)
Despite losing the services of teenage sensation Erling Braut Haaland to Borussia Dortmund in the January transfer window RB Salzburg were able to win their seventh consecutive Austrian league title in 2020. One of the main contributor’s to this latest title success is has been Patson Daka, who has admirably stepped up to soften the blow of losing Haaland.
Daka’s total 2019/2020 haul of 27 goals and 12 assists from 45 appearances in all competitions has unsurprisingly caught the attention of clubs across Europe. As a result the Zambian striker is expected to follow the path of Erling Haaland, Naby Keita, Takumi Minamino and Sadio Mane in eventually leaving Austria for a higher-profile European league. His two goals against Liverpool during pre-season football at the weekend just past have also raised eyebrows as to his potential.
– Patson Daka (@ PatsonDaka20) August 26, 2020
Who is Patson Daka?
Born in the Zambian city of Chingola, Patson Daka provides an inspirational success story, going from the school playing fields in his native Zambia to now leading the attack at one of Europe’s most exciting teams.
Like Haaland, Daka grew up with the benefit of having a father who played professional football – in fact Daka’s earliest memories of football are watching his father Nathtali taking on opponents out wide. Nathtali’s sad passing during Patson’s youth has provided a main source of motivation in Patson’s own footballing journey:
“He did not have the opportunities I have today,” Daka told The Guardiaa. “I feel I have achieved the dream he had for me, to see me play at a high level and come to Europe, and create my own legacy. It drives me every time because, wherever he is today, he is proud of me. ”
Like many footballers Daka’s journey in football carries an element of fortune. The youngster was taking exams at school when trials to represent the local province were being held. Persuaded by a friend, Daka went along and made an immediate impression:
“We went along and they were about to start. I knew one of the coaches and he told me to rush home for my training kit so I could be a part of it. I ran there and back. After playing for less then 10 minutes, they removed me from the pitch and said: ‘OK, wait for us here.’ ”
Less than 12 months after this trial Patson Daka was captaining Zambia at youth tournaments and even earned a call-up to the senior national team aged 16. Daka’s impressive performances as a teenager for Zambia in the Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations in 2015 captured the attention of former Mali international Frederic Kanoute:
“I was then with Kafue Celtic FC and we started talking. That’s how we finally got to meet and that’s how he also gave me the opportunity to come to Europe, ”said Daka to the BBC.
This meeting led Daka to Austria and eventually RB Salzburg after a loan spell at FC Liefering.
FC Red Bull Salzburg EN (@FCRBS_en) August 25, 2020
2017 proved to be a breakthrough for Patson Daka. The Zambian was a pivotal figure in RB Salzburg’s surprising UEFA Youth League success, scoring in the semi-final and final against FC Barcelona and Benfica respectively.
Internationally, Daka earned individual honors when named 2017 Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations Best Player (a tournament won by Zambia with Daka winning top goalscorer), 2017 CAF Youth Player of the Year and 2017 CAF Most Promising Talent of the Year. The latter is a particularly prestigious award, previously won by the likes of Mohamed Salah and John Obi Mikel.
Daka has mainly been used in a two-man attack in RB Salzburg’s preferred 4-2-2-2 formation. The forward has the speed to unsettle opposition defenses, making direct runs with and without the ball into dangerous positions.
Daka’s timing of his runs is very impressive for his age, with the majority of his goals coming inside the penalty box. Another impressive feature of Daka’s finishing is his confidence using both feet. He is not heavily reliant on one foot to score his goals. He has the ability to get the ball out of his feet quickly and get shots on goal before the goalkeeper is in a set position.
Without the ball, Daka’s aggressive pressing enables RB Salzburg to force turnovers in dangerous positions. The willingness to work defensively for the benefit of the team is a big strength of Daka’s, setting the tone for his teammates to follow.
“I brought him to Lille on trial when he was 17, he had to wait for his chance and then unfortunately I was sacked in the meantime. He is truly one to make a note of because he is a very, very promising player. ”
What next for Patson Daka?
Patson Daka is currently at the ideal club, playing regular minutes in the Austrian Bundesliga whilst also experiencing Champions League football.
The sale of Erling Haaland presents Daka with an opportunity to become a fundamental part of the team, something he has capitalized on so far in 2020.
The young forward has also benefited playing under the tutelage of Jesse Marsch for a predominantly young RB Salzburg team. Dominik Szoboszlai, Enock Mwepu and Sekou Koita are just some of the other young talents at Salzburg catching the eye of major European clubs.
Daka’s style of play is similar to Timo Werner, who recently joined Chelsea from RB Leipzig. Given the close links between RB Salzburg and RB Leipzig, Daka could be viewed as an ideal replacement for Werner, with a move to the German Bundesliga a logical step in his continued development. Liverpool are also reportedly keen after seeing him score two against Virgil van Dijk and co in pre-season, as are Manchester United and Arsenal.
For now, Daka is safe in the knowledge that his performances are giving RB Salzburg a growing number of new fans in Zambia:
“Right now it’s really crazy in Zambia. Most of the time people ask ‘how can we get the jerseys?’ ”
A bright future awaits if he can take his excellent form into 2020/21.