Who is Salis Abdul Samed? The Ghanaian midfield metronome touted as the perfect Douglas Luiz replacement

James Pennington
RC Lens' Salis Abdul Samed during the UEFA Champions League Group B match at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis, Lens.

RC Lens' Salis Abdul Samed during the UEFA Champions League Group B match at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis, Lens.

Salis Abdul Samed is a Ghanaian central midfielder currently contracted to Ligue 1 side RC Lens and as a result of his consistently impressive form has been recently linked with Premier League side Aston Villa as a potential replacement for Douglas Luiz.

TEAMtalk’s Fraser Gillan reported on Wednesday that Arsenal-linked Brazilian midfielder Douglas Luiz was subject to a potential move to the Emirates after Mikel Arteta looks to reignite his interest in the 25-year-old, with Salis Abdul Samed named as the man that Unai Emery will make a move for should they lose Luiz.

Abdul Samed is in his second season at RC Lens. He was a pivotal part of the French side’s challenge for the Ligue 1 title last season, often alongside Seko Fofana as the deeper midfield two, coming one point short of ruthless winners PSG.

Lens has struggled in the early part of this season, currently sixth just one point out of the European spots. This can be attributed to the sales of Lois Openda and Seko Fofana, as well as having to contest in the Champions League for the first time in over 20 years.

Abdul Samed’s career so far

Born and raised in his native Ghana in the capital city of Accra, Abdul Samed joined the JMG Academy which was set up by former French international Jean-Marc Guillou, before the academy relocated to Ivory Coast after the one in Accra closed.

In July 2019 he joined Clermont Foot on an initial two-year loan deal and made his professional debut in a Coupe de la Ligue loss against Lens. He was a part of the Clermont squad that achieved promotion to the top flight in 2019/20 before making the permanent switch to France in July 2021 on a four-year deal.

He would spend one season in Ligue 1 with Clermont where he made 31 appearances. His performances impressed fellow French side Lens, who purchased Abdul Samed €5m (£4.3m) in June 2022 on a five-year deal following the sale of Cheick Doucoure to Crystal Palace. 

In his first full season at Lens, he would make 33 league appearances which would see Lens come within one point of the title behind PSG and obtain Champions League football for the first time in 21 years.

He was named the best central midfielder by French sports news outlet Get French Football News at the end of the 2022/23 season ahead of the likes of Marco Veratti, Vitinha and Fabian Ruiz.

So far this season, the 23-year-old has appeared in every single Ligue 1 and Champions League match for Lens, becoming a key figure following the departure of Fofana.

He has appeared on seven occasions so far for Ghana and was a member of the Black Stars’ squad for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar where he started every game and often outshone Arsenal man Thomas Partey.

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What is Abdul Samed like as a player?

Abdul Samed has thrived primarily playing on the left side of a central midfield two in Lens’ 3-4-3 system and has numerous partners alongside him this campaign namely former Leicester man Nampalys Mendy, 20-year-old Andy Diouf and Neil El Aynaoui.

His best work usually comes deeper in the pitch, where he and his central-midfield partner will shield the back three and help to prevent any penetrative through balls in the half-spaces and break up play to win possession back for his side.

Wing-backs Deiver Machado and Przemyslaw Frankowski are crucial in adding width to Lens’ system and Abdul Samed’s ability to switch the ball to wide areas at key times is vital for how the French side transitions from defence to attack.

The Ghanaian was in the 97th percentile among midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues for pass completion (90.9% per 90) last season.

His ability to carry the ball up the pitch is also a big part of his game, as he was in the 94th percentile for Total Carrying Distance in Europe’s top five leagues (298.9 yards per 90) last campaign, also.

A tireless and selfless worker, he covered an average of 12.2km per 90 in Ligue 1 last season, only behind one other player.

Where will Abdul Samed go?

At only 23 years old, Abdul Samed still can improve but his performances for club and country have left a mark.

He is only in his third season of top-flight professional football but looks as though he has been playing there all his life.

With Mikel Arteta reigniting his interest in Douglas Luiz after Villa rejected three bids from the Gunners in September 2022, Abdul Samed has appeared on Villa’s radar should the Brazilian make the move to London.

Luiz has scored five and assisted twice for the Midlands club so far this season, starting every game so far and keeping out Belgian international Youri Tielemans, with Unai Emery getting the very best out of his Villa side so far as they sit 4th in the league just two points off of the top.

The former Man City man is under contract at Villa Park until 2026 and it will take a huge fee for The Villans to consider departing with Luiz.

Should such a move take place, then Abdul Samed is the candidate most likely to take up the mantle from Luiz, but with the Ghanaian under contract until 2028 himself, it would take a fee upwards of £30million for Lens to even consider parting with the 23-year-old.

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