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Get to know Issiar Dramé, the latest Red Bulls transfer rumor

Malian-French center back who most recently played in Ukraine is a product of the Clairefontaine academy

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Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup 2017 - Day 1
Issiar Dramé with Olympique Lyon in 2017
Photo by Alexander Hassenstein - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

A neat little transfer rumor passed across social media platform Twitter on Tuesday. While normally such a tidbit would be acknowledged and tossed into the dungeon where potential Expert Guide stories are detained, this particular whisper makes more than the average amount of sense for a potential late-season addition.

According to @MLS_FRA, the account dedicated to “finding all the news of MLS in French,” Issiar Dramé is close to signing with the New York Red Bulls. The 22-year-old free agent center back from suburban Paris was most recently with FC Olimpik Donetsk, competing in the Ukrainian Premier League last season.

As a youth player, Dramé spent “two exceptional years” training at the famed INF Clairefontaine facility while playing with AS Choisy-le-Roi. He then joined the Stade Rennais academy for a brief spell before moving to Olympique Lyonnais on a youth contract. The club placed him with the U-19s and the reserves in the fourth-tier Championnat National 2.

Dramé is noted for his significant height of 1.97 meters, heralded as “the tallest footballer in Lyon history.” The club praised his “good technical quality,” even testing him at defensive midfielder. The player describes himself as “at ease in duels but just as comfortable” in possession.

In 2017, Lyon signed him to a five-year contract, amid reported interest from Crystal Palace. “It’s a great pleasure to sign here,” said Dramé at the time. “It shows the confidence they have in me and my qualities… Now I have a lot of work to do before reaching the pro group.

In search of first-team playing time, he began going on trial. A loan to Norway’s SK Brann fell apart. Last summer, Dramé trained with SK Sturm Graz of the Austrian Bundesliga. Despite making a “good impression” and a hole at the center back position, the club opted to not sign him.

Dramé was ultimately unable to find a suitable loan location. In October of 2020, Lyon sent him to Olimpik on a free transfer but maintained “a 25% incentive on a future sale.” Last season, he made 19 league and cup appearances, a doomed campaign that resulted in relegation to the Ukrainian First League. Said to be on a “two-year contract,” perhaps that was voided following the drop.

As a center back, he appears serviceable, albeit a bit awkward, especially on tackles and direct one-on-one defending. His height provides him with certain obvious advantages such as a longer stride, easily winning headers, and the ability to surround attackers in a prison of limbs. Curiously, his statistics appear to contain zero goals, counter to the prevailing wisdom of easy dominance on set pieces. Dramé has surprisingly decent pace for his size and will push forward on the dribble, also possessing the ability to play perfectly placed switches and long passes.

While the Red Bulls are trying to get younger as a team and introduce more defensive depth, this appears to be more of a signing for the reserves. Dramé is largely unproven as a professional outside of one bottom of the table season in the Ukraine. He is an intriguing prospect due to his size and time spent at some of France’s best finishing schools. New York could unlock his potential, although there is likely to be a steep learning curve and several mistakes made along the way. Development can be a slow process, particularly at the center back position.

The United States would certainly be a new and perhaps welcome adventure for the young player. “I love variety,” Dramé told the Olimpik official website. “I like trying new things, changing the environment, traveling.”