Nigerian Isaac Success of Granada with top forward potential
Isaac Success continued his good start to the season by having a hand in both of Granada's goals in their 2-0 win at home to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday. It was his square pass that Athletic defender Aymeric Laporte turned into his own net for the first, while he converted the second himself with a well-controlled volleyed finish from inside the area.
Success joined Granada in March 2014 after being spotted by the scouting network of their parent club Udinese following impressive performances for both the BJ Foundation Academy in his native Benin City and for Nigeria at Under-17 level. He was assigned to Granada's B team, where he scored three times in five appearances, upon his arrival in Spain but was also an unused substitute for the first team on a couple of occasions towards the end of the 2013-14 season.
The young forward began the 2014-15 campaign as a registered B team player but it wasn't long before he began to get first-team opportunities. His debut came in a start away to Elche in late August and by Christmas he had notched his first goal in a 1-1 draw at home to Valencia. He had appeared 19 times by the end of the season and was rewarded for a highly promising debut campaign with a contract extension through to 2019 this summer.
The 19-year-old has become a regular this season under Jose Ramon Sandoval and has impressed with a series of bright performances for a side who have otherwise struggled during the early part of the campaign. He currently has one assist and three goals to his name, with the latter total including a lovely strike against Sporting Gijon in which he received the ball on the left of the area, cut inside and fired a curling effort into the far corner.
Yet it has not been an entirely smooth ride for the Nigerian. He was fined and temporarily banished from first-team training after he refused to travel with the team for their defeat away to Rayo Vallecano earlier this month in protest over the club's reluctance to further improve his contract. He had previously received warnings for other acts of indiscipline and was only brought back into the fold after issuing a public apology to everyone at the club.
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Success is a quick, strong and confident forward whose daring and incisive dribbling causes regular problems for opposing defences. His end product is still a bit hit-and-miss but his physique and persistence make him a real handful for his markers. He is capable of playing through the middle, but Sandoval currently views him as a player who can offer more to his team from a wide starting position on either the left or right flank.
-- Quick and powerful
-- Skilled and supple dribbler
-- Solid ball-striking technique
-- Inconsistent end product
-- Awareness of teammates' positioning
Tackling: His role and the manner in which Granada play mean that he is not required to make many tackles, therefore it is difficult to judge his aptitude in this area.
Marking: Puts defenders under decent pressure when appropriate. Starting to become accustomed to tracking back with his full-back but still prone to the odd lapse of concentration when doing so. Sometimes relieved of these duties to stay high and offer an out-ball on the break.
Heading: He stands a tad shy of six-foot and although his build suggests he should be a threat in the air, a record of just four headed attempts on goal -- none of which were on target -- in 30 appearances in La Liga indicates that at this stage of his career it is not a strength.
Close control: His first touch is generally OK, but it is his skilled manipulation of the ball at pace that really impresses. The quick foot-to-foot shuffle and supple change of direction that led to his gasp-inducing nutmeg on Sevilla's Timothee Kolodziejczak at the back end of last season provided a ready demonstration of his talent. Only three players in La Liga have been fouled more often than Success on a per-match basis so far this season.
Passing: Success consistently plays at pace and the accuracy of his passing often suffers from this haste. He is capable of linking decently in close quarters, but he is not a particularly inventive or incisive passer in more open situations. Needs to increase his awareness of the overall picture when in possession in order to add some more variety to his game.
Positioning: At Granada, he generally sticks to a wide starting position in order to receive the ball and take on his full-back. His movement was, however, more varied during his appearances for Nigeria at this year's Under-20 World Cup; he made off-ball runs in behind on the diagonal and also peeled off into the channels to receive the ball with his back to goal and link with incoming teammates. Good at timing his movements into the area.
Crossing: Generally looks to get past his marker towards the byline before providing low crosses into the area. The accuracy of these deliveries varies and he does sometimes seem to play them in blind without taking full note of the positioning of his teammates.
Finishing: Possesses solid technique when striking the ball and generally keeps his cool inside the area, as evidenced by the controlled manner of volleyed strike against Athletic on Sunday. He did, though, make a horrible mess of an excellent chance when through on goal in the 1-0 defeat away to Real Madrid. He has averaged a respectable 2.35 shots per 90 minutes so far this season -- around two-thirds of which he personally fashioned.
What The Experts Say
Rayo Vallecano coach Paco Jemez:: "Granada base a large percentage of their play around him. He is a strong and powerful player, and that allows them to play a direct and incisive game in certain areas of the pitch. He has been creating a lot of danger and is one of their most important players."
Granada teammate Salva Ruiz: "Success is one of the strongest guys I've ever seen."
Isaac still only 19, of course will have a few flaws in game. Important thing is making most of minutes he'll get. Confident showing today.- David Cartlidge (@davidjaca) September 19, 2015
Success set up a record label, I.S Music, this summer, and made a cameo appearance in the video for the label's debut single, Young Alhaji, performed by his childhood friend Trazyx.
Success has been in the notebooks of international scouts since his first appearance at under-17 level and his performances so far this season have simply underlined his potential. But he is a player that Granada view as their next big payday -- a player who in two-to-three years is capable of reaching the €20 million valuation assigned to him by his buyout clause -- and it is unlikely that they will allow him to leave at this early stage of his development.
The 19-year-old is already getting regular playing time in one of Europe's big five leagues and is improving on a weekly basis. He is still raw and needs to work on his end product in order to become more consistently decisive for his side, but if he can avoid off-field distractions and remain focused on his development, he looks to have all the attributes necessary to become a very useful top-level forward in the coming years.
Nick Dorrington is a freelance football writer. Twitter: @chewingthecoca.