Patson Daka: Jamie Vardy’s Successor From Zambia

Patson Daka was officially recruited by Leicester City from RB Salzburg in the transfer market this summer. The Zambian young star was bought for 23 million pounds and became the fourth Zambian player to play in the Premier League. In his home country, Daka is appreciated as an icon of a generation of talented footballers who are expected to be able to hoist the achievements of the national team.

Daka was 12 years old when the Zambia national team won the inaugural African Cup of Nations title. The Chipolopolo squad beat Ivory Coast on penalties in Libreville, Gabon in 2012. Since then, however, Zambia has seen a decline in performance, failing to qualify for the last three editions of the Africa Cup of Nations finals. This country is also still waiting for their debut in the World Cup.

In the FIFA rankings, Zambia’s ranking continues to decline, from initially ranking 34 in 2012 to falling to the 80s position in the last year. Zambia now puts hope in the younger generation who are grazing in Europe such as Enock Mwepu, Kings Kangwa, Fashion Sakala, and Patson Daka himself.

Daka’s career journey began in 2012, the year his country won the Africa Cup of Nations. His talent is known thanks to Airtel Rising Stars, a program organized to search for Zambian football talent. He only needed 10 minutes of testing to convince the coaches of his talent. “From there [Airtel Rising Stars programme], I had the opportunity to represent this country at a junior level,” the player, who was born in Kafue, a city in southeast Zambia, told the BBC.

In 2013, Daka was selected into the Zambia squad which was the result of the Airtel program selection. He was lined up as captain during a tournament in Nigeria and managed to become runner-up. Daka became the top scorer in the tournament. This 1998-born striker later became a subscription to the Zambia junior national team. At the age of 16, he made his senior national team debut in 2015. Two years later, the player scored his first international goal against Algeria.

Daka immediately entered the radar of Europe’s top clubs. In 2017, his name skyrocketed after strengthening Zambia in the U-20 Africa Cup of Nations. Daka helped his team win as well as won the title of best player and became the top scorer along with two other players. At the end of the year, he was awarded the title of Best Young Player of the CAF (African football confederation).

12 Management, the player agency fronted by former Sevilla, Frederic Kanoute, became the first to secure Daka’s services. This agency then bridged the player’s transfer to the Austrian giants, RB Salzburg. Initially, Daka was loaned by FC Liefering, a satellite club (feeder club) Salzburg. The Red Bull-owned club used to send young players to Liefering as part of its development strategy. Daka’s loan was intended to help him adapt to the Austrian climate and competition.

Daka strengthens Liefering from 2016/17. In the same season, he was called up by the Salzburg youth team for the final phase of the UEFA Youth League. Daka appeared in the semifinals and finals, scoring two important goals to ensure his team won the junior competition. At the end of 2016/17, Salzburg officially transferred Daka from his home club, Kafue Celtic. In 2019/20, coach Jesse March started regularly playing him in the first team. At that time, Salzburg were preparing to lose Erling Haaland who moved to Borussia Dortmund in January 2020. Daka was lined up as a new goal-getter to patch up the departure of the Norwegian striker.

The results did not disappoint. In 2019/20, Daka scored 24 goals in 31 Austrian Bundesliga matches. A season later, he scored 27 goals from 28 matches. In the last two seasons, the player scored 61 goals in 87 competitive matches. The nick confirms Patson Daka’s talent as a prolific striker. Leicester also continued their “tradition” with ambitious transfers with long-term targets. If he manages to adapt to English football, Daka can replace veteran Foxes striker Jamie Vardy.

The two players have a similar style. Both Daka and Vardy tend to trouble the opponent by quick acceleration into the dangerous area at the right time. They are reliable penalty box strikers to complement the team’s creative power. Launching The Analyst, the two players were very active in the opponent’s penalty box. A total of 19% of Daka’s touch in the Austrian Bundesliga last season was in the penalty box. In the Premier League, Vardy made 23% of his total touches in the opponent’s penalty box. The proportion of touches in the penalty box are both quite high in their respective competitions.

Neither Daka nor Vardy had a sharp instinct to find a shooting space. Daka’s xG record per game last season was 1.11, only losing to his teammate, Sekou Koita. Meanwhile, Vardy recorded the highest xG per game (0.63) in the Premier League. Vardy’s xG score was boosted by the eight penalties he executed throughout the season, while Daka only convert one penalty. This indicates Daka’s expertise in finding shooting space during open play situations.

Daka’s ingenuity is supported by qualified physical abilities. Like Vardy, the Zambian striker is capable of fast acceleration that is difficult for opposing defenders to catch. This ability also makes Daka a capable counter-attack outlet. Last season, he scored four goals from quick counter-attacking situations.

“Pace is one of his qualities and, of course, in the box he is very, very good. He is always ready to learn from different coaches. He always wants to help the team. The team is the most important thing for him, apart from scoring goals,” said Aleksandar Andonov, a Salzburg journalist who has followed Daka in Austria.

“Daka could be a perfect match for Leicester and the Premier League. He can overcome the style of football in England with his energy and strength. He always trains his strength and speed. He lives football and that’s one of his best attributes. He can be a very good player for Leicester.”

Moving to the Premier League means Daka is ready for a new, bigger challenge. He also has to develop some aspects of his game. Despite appearing prolific in Salzburg, the player is known to have weaknesses in duels and dribbling. So far, Daka himself has not proven himself in elite level football. In the Austrian Bundesliga, where RB Salzburg is too dominant, he managed to appear sharp. But in the Champions League, when the quality of the opponent is relatively better, the player struggles. He has only scored one goal in 10 UCL appearances.

The arrival of Patson Daka makes the profile of the Leicester City squad even more interesting ahead of the 2021/22 season. Given his sensational achievements in the last two seasons, the player also owes proof to the Foxes public. Can he repeat his scintillating form in Austria? Daka certainly needs an adaptation phase to be able to adjust to Brendan Rodgers’ team and navigate the Premier League. At King Power, he admitted that he wanted to learn from Jamie Vardy to become a sharp Leicester striker.

“I pay attention to the game and their [Leicester] style of play. Jamie Vardy is one of the players I’ve looked up to because of his style of play and the quality he has. I am very happy to have the opportunity to be with him and learn from him,” Daka told LCFC TV.

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