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Salzburg midfielder Youba Diarra close to New York loan move

Malian 22-year-old looks to recharge career after struggling with injuries in Europe

TSV Hartberg v WSG Wattens - UNIQA OeFB Cup Photo by Markus Tobisch/SEPA.Media /Getty Images

The New York Red Bulls are preparing to add another player to the midfield depth chart.

As reported by OaM’s Ben Cork, Youba Diarra will be moving to MLS on loan, according to a source close to the player. The 22-year-old Malian midfielder is currently on the books at Red Bull Salzburg. His current deal with the Austrian club lasts through May of 2024, following a contract extension in August of 2019. At the time, he was considered “an important player for the future” by sporting director Christoph Freund.

Diarra joined Salzburg in January of 2018 as a part of a four-member Malian group, signing from Yeelen Olympique de Bamako. He was immediately sent on loan to Wiener Neustädter and made 16 appearances in five months. The ensuing years featured the usual back-and-forth journey embarked on by many players attempting to climb the ladder at major clubs. Stops at TSV Hartberg and FC St. Pauli were interspersed with spells with the FC Liefering reserve side.

The constant throughout Diarra’s young career is a lack of playing time and medical issues. In four years since moving to Europa, he’s made a total of 38 appearances. There’s also a notable injury history. He first ruptured his cruciate ligament in October of 2018 while with TSV Hartberg. A year later, “knee problems that have existed for some time” disrupted what was becoming a productive loan at St. Pauli and forced him to return to Salzburg for surgery.

After a lengthy rehabilitation period, Diarra returned to Liefering in June of 2020 and performed quite well. He played in six matches, but unfortunately tore his cruciate ligament a month later in a match against SV Ried. Another surgery has kept him out of the team picture for several months.

Diarra is an interesting tactical signing for a club that has not deployed a defensive midfielder in several years. The Red Bulls are moving to a formation more focused on swarming the center of the pitch, which naturally requires the acquisition of more central midfielders. Struber is at least familiar with the player, their tenures having briefly overlapped in 2018 and 2019 before the manager moved to Wolfsberger AC. Assistant coach Bernd Eibler might be even more aware of what Diarra has to offer, having worked as a video analyst at Hartberg during the aforementioned loan.

Diarra is considered a dynamic defensive midfielder but “can also play the eight or the ten.” He began training to become a soccer player at the age of six and was a part of a Malian academy that partners with Salzburg. While in Europe, “his family” and “African food” were a cause for homesickness, but the 22-year-old remains committed to his career. There is no reported history of adjustment struggles, so the move to the United States should not present an issue.

This is, of course not the flashy signing desired by supporters, but instead another attempt at finding some value in a possibly overlooked talent in need of regular playing time. Injury issues are concerning, but they largely served to stifle the upward trajectory upon which he was embarking. Struber’s knowledge of the player should provide some advantage, as he is still young enough to develop into a serviceable professional. While he has not played a single minute of meaningful soccer since July, perhaps there is something to this young player who is already an experienced veteran at an age when many American players are only just breaking into the professional ranks.