Ismaïla Sarr is helping Rennes write club history; UEFA.com has the lowdown.
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That Rennes are enjoying the club's best continental season is in no small part down to Ismaïla Sarr, whose goals have helped take his side to the UEFA Europa League round of 16. Allow UEFA.com to introduce the Senegalese winger.
Name: Ismaïla Sarr
2018/19*: 40 games, ten goals
Who is he?
Sarr is the young winger enjoying a breakthrough campaign with Rennes and thriving in Europe, impressing with his quick, direct running and improved finishing.
What makes him so good?
Don't take our word for it, just watch his goal against Jablonec. Anyone who can do that must be quite good. In all seriousness, Sarr is speedy, unafraid to take on his opposite number, often drawing fouls as a result, takes his chances well and has improved his defensive diligence.
Why is he the centre of attention?
Three goals and three assists have inspired Les Rouges et Noirs to a glamour round of 16 tie against Arsenal; Sarr scored both goals when Rennes beat Astana to qualify for the knockout stage, while coach Julien Stéphan lamented losing the youngster's pace on the break when leading 3-1 against Real Betis in the last-32 first leg. The Brittany side conceded twice after his injury-enforced withdrawal, but Sarr recovered in time to collect a second-leg assist, Rennes running out 3-1 winners in Spain.
Where has he come from?
When moving to Metz from Dakar-based Génération Foot in 2016, Sarr followed the same path as Sadio Mané, Diafra Sakho and Papiss Cissé. After a season at Metz, Rennes recruited Sarr to occupy one of the wide attacking midfield berths that Ousmane Dembélé had vacated one year prior.
When did he make his debut?
Sarr made his senior bow for Metz in August 2016, his first club goal following six months later against Dijon. He marked his first European outing earlier this season with that stunning strike against Jablonec, while his senior international debut came against Namibia in September 2016, as a replacement for Mané.
How far could he go?
Dembélé is as good an example to follow as any for Sarr. Although the Senegalese is not as naturally two-footed as his French counterpart, his acceleration and penchant for the spectacular mark him out as a future star. Sarr seems in no rush to depart, however, stating recently that it was "too soon to leave" Rennes, where he is under contract until 2021.
What they say …
"Ismaïla is quick, capable of beating his man, crossing and finishing."
Senegal coach Aliou Cissé
"He makes sure he is in the best possible shape to produce the best possible performance. That's a sign of a future champion."
Former Rennes coach Sabri Lamouchi
"His shyness may never fade, but it will also never stop him taking responsibility."
Former Rennes team-mate Diafra Sakho
"We feel that he could make the difference at any time."
Rennes team-mate Damien Da Silva
"They [Sarr and Dembélé] don't have the same physique. Sarr is quicker and more athletic, while Ousmane is more refined. Sarr is slowly becoming more clinical at the highest level."
Former Rennes academy director Patrick Rampillon
"We know all about his ability to knock the opposition off balance with his running and dribbling."
Rennes coach Julien Stéphan
What he says …
"No [I'm not a star of the Senegal team]. We have Sadio Mané, [Kalidou] Koulibaly and Keita Baldé. I'm behind them, but I'll work to overtake them!"
"The coach has advised me to keep my distance from defenders. If you're too close to them with your first touch, they're going to hurt you. I still take some hits, but it's better than last season."
"I need to make a mark here at Rennes before leaving for other countries or clubs. We need to win something or take the club to quarter-finals or semi-finals."
"I am happy; my parents are proud of me. I just count every day as a chance to make the best out of my profession."
*appearance data includes games for Rennes and Senegal