Ibrahim Osman: The ‘explosive’ starlet following the Simon Adingra route to Brighton

Brighton & Hove Albion already have one rising African star in Simon Adingra. It won’t be long until they have another.

In February, Brighton completed the signing of 19-year-old Ibrahim Osman from Danish club Nordsjaelland for around £16million ($20m), with the Ghanaian winger due to arrive at the Amex Stadium when the summer’s transfer window opens.

Didi Dramani, who coached both players at the Right To Dream academy in Ghana, says Osman is more “explosive” than Adringa — who has been an eye-catching regular for Brighton this season and also an influential figure in Ivory Coast’s recent Africa Cup of Nations triumph.

Judgment on Osman’s ability to make an impact in the Premier League in the way 22-year-old Adingra has cannot begin properly until he links up with Brighton in pre-season. However, Dramani is confident that Brighton’s highly-respected player recruitment operation has unearthed another gem as Osman follows the pathway of fellow winger Adingra from Right To Dream to Nordsjaelland, on the northern outskirts of Copenhagen, and then Brighton.

“I prophesied that he would make it,” Dramani says of Osman. “He was hard-working, with a high level of resilience. He blossomed. I knew he was the next in line. He is something close to Simon but he is more explosive. I kept telling the boy that he should believe in what he is doing.

“His potential is based on his personality, his work attitude. When players work so well in training, the coach will use them.”

Dramani was part of Ghana’s coaching staff, under former Brighton and Newcastle manager Chris Hughton, at AFCON this January and February. Ghana flopped at the tournament in Ivory Coast, failing to progress from the group stages after earning just two points from their three matches, which led to Hughton’s departure after 11 months in the job. Ghanaians were mystified that Osman was not named in the squad as he is regarded as one of the most exciting prospects in the country.

He made his senior debut as a late substitute in their 2-1 loss to Nigeria last Friday, having been called up for the first time by Hughton’s reappointed successor Otto Addo.

Osman’s age, room for development and versatility are all factors that make him a typical Brighton signing.

Dramani says: “He has been trained as a left winger, he’s been better trained as a right winger — and he’s better as a No 9. It’s so crazy. If you play him as a No 9, he does very well, especially when you create a two-v-two in the last line (of defence), have two wide players and two players in the half-spaces.

Ibrahim Osman, Nordsjaelland, Brighton

Osman is now a senior Ghana international (Jan Christensen/FrontzoneSport via Getty Images)

“He’s very clever. I’m sure sometimes he does it without even knowing. If the opponent drops deep, it’s easy to drop into those positions to receive and turn at them, but when he is playing as a wide player, he is so dangerous; running behind, coming at you at tempo. When I look at the Brighton structure, I think it will suit him so well.

“I am not surprised (by the fee). I just want to pray that he keeps his cool head as a young player. He is not the outspoken type but he’s a worker. He’ll be healthy competition.”

Sam Jewell, Brighton’s former head of recruitment, drove the deal to land Osman for months before resigning in February to join fellow Premier League side Chelsea.

The Nordsjaelland hierarchy were invited to a game at the Amex last year. During their visit, talks progressed Brighton’s interest towards a successful conclusion.

Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal had been keeping tabs on Osman’s progress and West Ham United arrived late on the scene to compete for his signature but Brighton were always in the box seat and had already reached an agreement in principle with Nordsjaelland, who signed him from Right To Dream in January last year.

They also had the advantage of being able to show off Adingra’s rapid development under their care. That is important to Nordsjaelland’s model as a stop-off point for young players en route to the bigger leagues in England and elsewhere in Europe.

An agreement was reached on a fee of around £16million, with Osman remaining at Nordsjaelland for the rest of this season. Jan Laursen, Nordsjaelland’s sporting director, says: “Of course, we would have liked to see Osman stay with us even longer than until the end of this season, but we now also know the mechanisms.



Brighton confirm Osman signing

“When the interest becomes so significant from many big clubs, as we have experienced in this (January) transfer window, and when the player sees it as a dream move — combined with the fact that we have met both our financial and not least timing requirements — then we have decided to carry out the transfer.”

Nordsjaelland are fourth in the Danish Superliga and into this weekend’s semi-finals of the domestic cup, with the season there having resumed in mid-February following a two-month winter break.

Phil Radley, Nordsjaelland’s director of football operations, says: “At Brighton, Osman will be part of a very well-run club and we are very proud that he’s been given this opportunity — and has chosen to seize it.”

Osman has scored with his right foot, his left foot and his head for Nordsjaelland. He has contributed five goals and the same number of assists in 33 club appearances across all competitions this season.

One of those goals, in a 3-1 league away win against Aarhus in July, demonstrated his movement, mobility and finishing ability.

Osman initially signals to a team-mate that he is going to make a run towards the left wing to receive a pass.

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That creates a gap for the player on the ball to make an alternative pass while Osman changes direction, stepping back inside off his left foot to join in the move.

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As the ball is recycled, Osman (spotlighted below) makes another run off his marker to receive possession.

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He still has a lot to do, with an opponent close behind him and another tracking across to cut down the space, but Osman uses his upper-body strength to hold them off as he heads for goal.

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The right-foot finish, as the then 18-year-old is falling and under pressure, is precise into the far corner of the net.

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Osman is the latest example of the talented players flowing out of the Right To Dream academy in Old Akrade in eastern Ghana, a three-hour drive from the capital city of Accra, where he was born.

Right To Dream became the first African organisation to purchase a European club when they bought Nordsjaelland in 2015. They also set up a youth academy in Denmark, where Osman developed before making his first-team debut for Nordsjaelland in February last year.

Adingra is one of several other Right To Dream-Nordsjaelland graduates to have made significant moves to Europe.

Brighton lost out to West Ham last summer over attacking midfielder Mohammed Kudus from Ajax of the Netherlands. Kudus, 23, attracted a fee of £34m. Kamaldeen Sulemana, now 22, went to French side Rennes for £14.5million in summer 2021 before the left winger joined Southampton in the Championship in last year’s winter transfer window.

Another left winger, Ernest Nuamah, went to Belgian side RWD Molenbeek for over £21million last August. The now 20-year-old was immediately loaned to Lyon in France for the rest of the season. Midfielder Mohamed Diomande, 22, joined Scotland’s Rangers in January on loan, in a deal including an obligation to sign him permanently for £4.5m this summer.

“I’ve seen what the other Right To Dream players have achieved and these were big shoes that needed to be filled; Kamaldeen, Kudus, Adingra, Nuamah, Diomande, to name a few,” said Osman last month. “They have all helped motivate me to go the extra mile to prove how good I am.”

Simon Adingra, Brighton

Ex-Right To Dream man Adingra also joined Brighton from Nordsjaelland (Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)

Why did Osman choose Brighton? It’s a simple question to answer.

They have established themselves as the go-to club in the Premier League for young players to get first-team opportunities in the next step of their careers. In the sales pitch, Brighton can point to the fact that 19 of their league goals in the calendar year 2023 were scored by teenagers — three more than the combined total by teen goalscorers from the Premier League’s 19 other clubs.

Adingra is a prime example of how young players are given the chance to flourish quickly.

Then 21, he scored on his league debut in the season-opening 4-1 home win over Luton Town in August after doing well on loan to Union Saint-Gilloise (15 goals in 51 appearances) in Belgium’s top flight last season. Adingra featured in 17 out of a possible 18 league games for Roberto De Zerbi up to Christmas before helping Ivory Coast become African champions last month, overcoming a hamstring injury to start the semi-final and final.

Osman appears to have the pedigree to follow in his footsteps and says he has ambitions of shining at Brighton as part of a bigger plan to make it to the top of the game.

“If you watch their (Brighton’s) history with the young players, they are also a selling club,” Osman told Eurosport Denmark earlier this month. “I think, for my development, that’s a better thing for me.

“My dream was to play in the Premier League and also to play for a team that have the same style of play as FC Nordsjaelland. They (Brighton) promote younger players.

“I think it’s a better stepping stone for me, for my development.”

(Top photo: Lars Ronbog/FrontZoneSport via Getty Images)

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