Around midnight England time, the first rumors of Feyenoord midfielder Karim El Ahmadi's impending transfer to Aston Villa began to surface. Though things are still decidedly in the speculative stage, there's enough to this particular rumor that I thought it was worth my time to try and track down some video of El Ahmadi. Luckily, there's a fairly extensive amount of just that available on YouTube, and though it's not enough to develop any kind of fully developed opinion of his abilities it is enough to give us something of an idea of the kind of player we'd be getting if he ends up in claret and blue.
Video (and my impressions) after the jump.
Watching all of the video below, the first thing that jumps out is the way El Ahmadi seems to command the midfield in both the defensive and attacking phases of the game. Defensively his positioning looks quite good, he takes very smart routes to break up play, and his tackling is very impressive. In the attack, a great deal of Feyenoord's build up seems to start with him, and though he doesn't look to be the world's most creative passer that's not the worst thing in the world; Villa struggled so mightily to maintain possession last season that having a holding midfielder that makes good decisions and doesn't give the ball away easily could make a tremendous amount of difference. Those aren't always the most exciting players in the world, but they can be tremendously valuable.
Most of that jibes with what I remember seeing the few times I have seen him play, though it was encouraging to have my generally positive impressions justified to some degree. But there was one thing that did take me by surprise; I did not remember El Ahmadi having near as much speed and closing ability as these videos would seem to indicate. There are several instances of his running down opposing players from 20-30 yards away, reading the play from behind and breaking up threatening attacks. There are a few very nice runs as well, with El Ahmadi using his quickness and speed to pick up a few steps on his marker and finding space in attacking areas. In short, there's a lot to like; it's always dangerous to read too much into highlight videos, but it's tough to watch these and not get just a little bit excited.
See for yourself!