There are numerous players who go under the radar when the weekly headlines are being written, but when you delve a little deeper in search of the key to a team’s success, there you find them. Watching games back, looking at the stats, they are there again and again. In the case of 1.FC Köln the name of Ellyes Skhiri looms large in this respect.
The 27-year-old Tunisian has become an absolute key to the Billy Goats recent success, and it wouldn’t be too large an assumption to compare his importance in the Domstadt to that of Joshua Kimmich in Munich.
Since his €6 million move to the Bundesliga in 2019 from Montpellier, he has consistently improved year on year, and leads many of the important metrics that help define the quality of the modern midfielder. He is the perfect number six in many ways combing passing, tackling, and running. This season (like Jude Bellingham) he has played every minute for Steffen Baumgart in the Bundesliga- such is his importance to the team.
He is second only to Hoffenheim’s Grischa Prömel in terms of total distance covered at 121,15 km. He ranks third in the Bundesliga for tackles in the midfield third and seventh overall for successful pressures. In terms of tackles won, he is fourth in the entire league behind Tom Krauß (Schalke), Dominik Kohr (Mainz) and Manu Koné (Mönchengladbach).
He’s also seventh overall for blocks and the top midfielder for interceptions with 20. His passing accuracy puts him as the fifth best midfield passer with 88.4%.
His talent, while an important factor for Köln and Tunisia (he was voted Footballer of the Year in 2021), is also well known to other sporting directors and with his contract due to expire next summer, there will be no shortage of interested parties.
There had been speculation this past summer that he could move but club were determined to hold onto their prized asset and try to convince him to sign a new contract at the Rhein-Energie Stadion. “Our clear intention is that Ellyes will play with us next season” Managing Director Christian Keller said at the start of this season.
“He’s one of our best players and a model professional. Ellyes is well rooted in Cologne and feels at home here. At the same time, he is also a very ambitious player who might want to take further steps in his career. We discussed with him that if he wants to change, he should come to us. If he doesn’t have the idea, then we don’t mind either.”
Losing Skhiri would be a huge blow to Köln as they are all too aware of his talent and what it means to their success. Attempting to find a replacement for Anthony Modeste’s goals is one, thing, but finding a replacement for Skhiri would be an even greater challenge and one they would rather not face.