A trip through the past: Pogba, Diaby and Skelly Alvero
The unicorn midfielder is channelling the icons of yesteryear.
The football hipsters are fascinated by Skelly Alvero, a Ligue 1 midfielder that has the size of an NBA small forward. Mohamed Mohamed - aka MoeSquare - looks to the past to predict the future of French football’s latest ‘unicorn’.
The term ‘unicorn’ is most commonly seen when describing NBA players. How one defines who qualifies as such is up for debate, but the general idea is simple: a very small number of players in a given era stretch the imagination for what’s possible in their position.
Tall central midfielders who are proficient in possession and rangy out of it are one example of a ‘unicorn’ profile in football, especially as Europe’s best clubs place an increasing emphasis on athleticism. Patrick Vieira is an historical example of a player who provided top-level, two-way impact from 2001–04. Early-career Yaya Touré was another; he was able to perform very effectively at both ends before he settled for attacking as he aged.
This brings us to Skelly Alvero. If you brand yourself as something of a football hipster, you've likely come across a clip or two of Alvero’s impressive footwork. His dribbling would be notable for any midfielder - it’s made extraordinary because this one is the height of an NBA small forward.
2022/23 was Alvero’s first season of regular first-team football. He broke through with Sochaux in Ligue 2, and only became a regular starter from January onwards. Olympique Lyonnais won his signature over the summer and he moved up a division to ply his trade for one of France's most historical clubs (albeit one who have, admittedly, seen much better days).
According to different sites, Skelly Alvero is listed between 6'6" to 6’8”. Watching him stride through midfield, dwarfing his opponents by two heads, borders on alarming - but does this alone make him a ‘unicorn’? In more material terms, what can he offer to Lyon this season at just 21? Can he play a solid amount of minutes against the sterner competition of Ligue 1 while providing positive value?
To answer these questions - and to project the future of one of football’s most interesting young talents - we must go on a trip through the past.
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