In a football world filled with countless stars of today, so many of us are curious about who is waiting in the wings. That search for that next wunderkind; a youngster who has the potential to make us stand up and marvel at how they are masters of their craft. Despite their tender age, they are already embedded in the minds of millions of fans around the world.
101 Great Goals continues its weekly series surveying U21 players across the globe during the 2022-23 season. Some of them you will have no doubt heard of, while we hope to bring you a few new names to spark your curiosities every now and then.
Fact File & 2022-2023 Data Picture
- Name: Simon Adingra
- Age: 21
- Position: Left-Wing
- Place of Birth: Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast
- International eligibility: Ivory Coast
- National team caps: 0
- Current club: Royale Union Saint-Gilloise (on loan from Brighton & Hove Albion)
- Current Market Value (per Transfermarkt): €6m (£5m)
- Potential suitor(s): N/A
Background & Overall Assessment
As one of the leading lights in African football, Côte d’Ivoire has struggled to hit the same heights during their heyday when the likes of Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Wilfried Bony, and the Touré brothers were part of a cadre of talent which pushed the west African nation to all three of their World Cup appearances.
Since then, the CAF giants missed out on both Russia 2018 as well as Qatar 2022, while also struggling across their last three appearances in the African Cup of Nations, crashing out of the group stage in 2017 despite being the holders at the time, and then following it up with reaching the quarterfinals in 2019 and the round of 16 in 2021 respectively.
But as hosts of the next tournament set to take place from 13 January – 11 February 2024, Les Éléphants is hitting a new stride at the right time under head coach and former Montpellier midfielder Jean-Louis Gasset. Their uptick in form under the Frenchman is due in part to a new core of young talent in and around the senior camp, with names the likes of David Datro Fofana, Karim Konaté, Amad Diallo, Hamed Traorè, Sinaly Diomandé, Odilon Kossounou, and Wilfried Singo. Another name soon to feature regularly is 21-year-old Simon Adingra.
Born in the city of Yamoussoukro, 240 kilometers from Abidjan, Adingra has taken a familiar path to Europe that normally involved neighboring Ghana, the budding left-winger came through the vaunted Right to Dream Academy before taking the next step with Danish development house FC Nordsjælland in January 2020. After finishing his education in Farum, Adinga made his first senior appearance in April 2021 during the tail-end of the 2020-21 Superliga season, scoring twice in seven appearances.
Under former Nordsjælland manager Flemming Pedersen, Adingra made massive strides in the following 2021-22 season as a first-team regular, bagging 9 goals in 31 league appearances, prompting Premier League outfit Brighton to come calling last summer while parting with €8m (£7m) to secure his services from Right to Dream Park. But Adingra is not garnering praise for contributions under current Seagulls manager Roberto De Zerbi, and instead, his own budding pathway to potential stardom is being trodden in Brussels as part of a Royale Union Saint-Gilloise side that continues to defy the odds while re-establishing its credentials as one of the biggest clubs in Belgium.
Due to USG’s direct link to Brighton via owner Tony Bloom, Adingra was loaned to the capital side for the 2022-23 Jupiler Pro League campaign and has taken yet another step in his career under highly-touted manager Karel Geraerts.
The former Belgian international midfielder has been at the core of USG’s success both at home and abroad this season, keeping Les Unionistes in the conversation for topping the league (as they did in 2021-22) during the regular season before the championship playoffs. The club’s march to the quarterfinals of the Europa League has a devoted fanbase dreaming of major European honors as well, with Adingra playing a key part on all fronts.
Under Geraerts, Adingra has made 41 appearances across four competitions, being equally capable of securing a starting birth while also coming off the bench as a very credible impact sub. With double-digit numbers in both goals and assists, only key Maltese midfielder and club captain Teddy Teuma has contributed more in the final third than Adingra after the departure of Belgian international winger Dante Vanzeir, leading to even greater involvement for the Ivorian.
Across his last four league appearances, all USG wins, the 21-year-old has bagged two goals and added a further three assists, and played a vital role for the club as they close the gap to table-topping KRC Genk to just three points.
Simon started the season really well. He had a small dip, but in the last few weeks he’s come back with a bit of a bang. He scored and set one up against Genk last week in what was a massive game at the top of the table [Union won 2-1]. He’s done well over the season. As a direct comparison to Kaoru [Mitoma] playing there last season, Simon has actually played more.— Brighton loan manager Gordon Greer via the club's official website
Perhaps even more notable is the fact that Adingra has been utilized far more during his time in the Belgian capital than current Brighton star winger Kaoru Mitoma. The Japanese international enjoyed a successful loan spell with USG last term before returning to the south coast to take the Premier League by storm in 2022-23, and according to Brighton’s loan manager Gordon Greer, strong performances from Adringa could lead to involvement at the AMEX in 2023-24.
As a versatile forward that has been utilized in four or five different roles this season at Joseph Marien Stadium, there are some suggestions that Adingra could be the ideal long-term replacement for the departed Leandro Trossard. Though it is unclear how De Zerbi - assuming he remains in the Brighton technical area - will utilize the Ivorian winger, his ability to find the back of the net and equally turn provider is a skillset that the Italian headmaster would certainly love to sink his teeth into.
Additionally, Adingra boasts a knack for running at pace to exploit space in front of him, both in wide areas but also in the half-spaces, making him the type of wide player that is far more tricky to deal with than players who rely on specific attacking moves to get into dangerous positions in the final third.
Given Brighton’s well-documented ability to scout young talent capable of reaching a level that exceeds the club’s current stature, it almost seems a guarantee that Simon Adringa is on the fast track to stardom.