A Zidane-like 21-year-old has rejected a move to Liverpool FC, has been called ‘amazing’ by Pep Guardiola, and is already valued at $66 million

Zidane, Aouar, and Guardiola.

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Zidane, Aouar, and Guardiola.
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Getty

Pep Guardiola calls very few players “incredible.”

But the 21-year-old French kid Houssem Aouar is one of them.

“[Aouar] is a very good player. He is incredible,” said the Manchester City manager of the Olympique Lyonnais youngster last year, according to Sky Sports.

“He’s always very calm with the ball at his feet, with an excellent technical quality.”

Guardiola made his comments about Aouar, who was just 20-years-old at the time, having just watched him dominate City’s midfield – consisting of Fernandinho, David Silva, and Riyad Mahrez – during a 2-2 draw in the UEFA Champions League in November 2018.

The Frenchman put in a near perfect performance at the Groupama Stadium on the night, completing 100% of his dribbles, 90% of his 62 passes, and making five tackles. City’s midfielders were also unable to dispossess him even once throughout the whole 90 minutes.

The display saw Aouar announce himself to the footballing world in style, however, his ascension to the top had been coming long before.

Aouar says he knew of his talent since he was a youngster

Aouar’s love for football was forged in the multicultural streets of Lyon, before he was snapped up by his boyhood club in 2009, aged just 11.

After being nurtured by the club’s famous academy – which has been responsible for producing some of Europe’s current top players including Alexandre Lacazette, Karim Benzema, and Corentin Tolisso – Aoaur started to realize the value of his ability.

“Around 15, 16, that’s when I told myself I could do something great,” he told The Players’ Tribune.

In 2015, aged 17, he made his first appearance for Lyon B, and two years later the first team came calling, with then-coach Bruno Genesio handing him his professional as a late substitute in the UEFA Europa League against AZ Alkmaar.

Wearing the number 25 shirt, Aouar very nearly bagged himself an assist in the 90th minute after bursting with pace on the counter and finding himself with just one Alkmaar defender and the keeper, between him and four adjacent teammates.

He had laid on Nabil Fekir for an easy finish, however the shot was saved. Fortunately for Lyon, Jordan Ferri swept home the rebound to make the score 4-1, but unfortunately for Aouar, he had to wait to register his first goal contribution in a white shirt.

He didn’t have to wait long, though. A week, in fact, was all it took him to make his mark, scoring his side’s sixth goal in a 7-1 victory in the return leg at the Groupama.

“I remember everything clearly,” he told The Players’ Tribune, reminiscing about the goal. “Lacazette sends me a lobbed ball through. I manage to control it and pass it to Christophe Jallet, on his right side.

Aouar slots home his first Lyon past Alkmaar keeper Tim Krul.

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Aouar slots home his first Lyon past Alkmaar keeper Tim Krul.
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Reuters/Robert Pratta

“He passes it back directly to me. I find myself facing the goalkeeper, and I slide the ball right between his legs.

“I was proud. Honestly really proud. I wanted to scream. I remember that I dedicated that goal to my mother. It was a really special moment for me. And, like I said, especially because I scored here, in Lyon, in my city.”

And many more of those special moments followed shortly after

Subsequent to his exploits against Alkmaar, Aouar quickly became a regular feature in Lyon’s first team.

In the 2017-2018 season, in the absence of Tolisso who had just moved to Bayern Munich, he made 31 starts in both Ligue 1 and the Champions League, scoring seven goals and producing six assists – which was enough to see him earn a nomination for FIFA’s Golden Boy award as one of the best young players in the world.

The following season, his stock further increased as he made 44 appearances, scored seven goals, and made seven assists. Only midfield partner Tanguy Ndombele and forward Bertrand Traore stepped out for Lyon more during the campaign.

His performances drew comparisons to the FIFA World Cup winner Zinedine Zidane – the man Aouar says he idolized growing up.

“I think Zidane was the player who made me love football,” he told The Players’ Tribune. “Because of his way of playing and his behaviour. He is a great player and he’s French. So yes it really is [him].”

Aouar also says he used to imitate Zidane as a boy on the streets of Lyon.

“When I was a boy, like most kids, I used to pretend to be another player,” he told Ligue 1. “It was usually Zidane.”

He now could follow in his idol’s footsteps

A number of clubs are now keeping tabs on Lyon’s 21-year old superstar, including Zidane’s Real Madrid.

Zidane himself said he would be keen to take on the $66 million youngster at the Santiago Bernabeu as an alternative to Manchester United’s Paul Pogba, whom he admits is out the club’s price bracket, according to Don Balon.

But Madrid isn’t the only club interested. Liverpool and Manchester City are also reportedly after the midfielder.

The former, Aouar rejected, albeit nearly a half-a-decade ago. “Before I signed my first professional contract with Lyon in July 2016, Liverpool were interested in me,” he told Planete Lyon, via the Metro.

“I thought about it hard with those close to me on the decision I needed to take, what was better for my progression. I opted for Lyon because it is the club of my heart and my aim was to succeed here, in [Lyon].”

Manchester City, and Pep Guardiola, the man who called him “incredible”, however, Aouar is unlikely to turn down should it come knocking.

“You wouldn’t like to go to City?” Aouar said when asked about a potential move to The Etihad Stadium, according to Bleacher Report.

“It is a great European club and all players have this urge to play for the biggest European clubs, which in addition is led by Guardiola, who for me is a reference as a coach. Guardiola has seen everything before.

“It is extremely good to play his teams and that’s what I like, his way of seeing football.”

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