The signing of Baba Diawara is exactly the type of good news Adelaide United needed this week, as there are signs the striker could match the Hyundai A-League’s best forwards.
With Adelaide’s 2016-17 campaign having come to an end on Tuesday night with a 1-0 loss to Jiangsu Suning in the AFC Champions League, the focus in South Australia has quickly turned to next season.
Captain Eugene Galekovic is widely expected to leave after almost a decade at Adelaide, with the club seemingly uninterested in offering the goalkeeper another contract.
Galekovic could headline a large group of experienced players to leave the Reds, including Marcelo Carrusca, Sergio Cirio and Dylan McGowan – the latter is reportedly on his way to Portugal.
But while that exodus may prompt memories of what happened a year ago when Adelaide failed to keep their championship-winning squad together, the announcement on Thursday that
Diawara has signed a two-year deal should give Reds fans cause for optimism.
After Sergi Guardiola (3 goals, 16 games) disappointed in the first half of the season and was allowed to return to Spain, Diawara joined from Portuguese club Maritimo and quickly made an impact at Coopers Stadium.
“When we agreed to bring Baba in during the January window, we knew his potential and were always confident he could deliver,” Adelaide’s general manager of football Ante Kovacevic said in a statement.
“In the games he’s played in this season, it’s been obvious how hard he works for the team and is a constant threat to our opposition.
“We’re very happy Baba has agreed to stay here in Adelaide and be part of our club moving forward.”
The 29-year-old Senegalese striker notched five goals in 13 appearances in all competitions and his A-League stats hint at him improving in his second season in Australia.
Diawara’s shooting accuracy (62%) and conversion rate (23%) put him right up amongst the A-League’s best marksmen in 2016-17.
Of the top five goal-scorers this season, Brendon Santalab (68%), Jamie Maclaren (64%) and Bruno Fornaroli (63%) tested the goalkeeper more regularly than Diawara, while Besart Berisha (61%) and Bobo (50%) were less accurate.
Berisha (36%) lead the way in terms of conversion rate, while Santalab (35%) and Maclaren (25%) were better than Adelaide’s centre-forward, although Fornaroli and Bobo (both 22%) put away fewer opportunities.
By securing Diawara’s services for the next two seasons, Adelaide’s new coach will have someone to build a team around.
Adelaide were the worst attacking team in the A-League this season with just 25 goals from 27 games, but in Diawara, the Reds look to have the type of forward who can surpass the 10-goal mark and lead them back into the top six.