From Cameroon, to being Bielsa’s captain and a £12m Sevilla switch – Amadou’s journey to Norwich City
PUBLISHED: 17:10 07 August 2019 | UPDATED: 18:23 07 August 2019
JASON DAWSON ©Jason Dawson
From being born in Cameroon, to playing in the League Cup final in France, being made Lille captain by Marcelo Bielsa and a big-money move to Spain – it’s fair to say Ibrahim Amadou has been on quite the journey before pitching up in Norfolk.
Let's go right back to the start though, to life beginning in Douala in Cameroon, a coastal city on the west coast of Africa, just north of the equator.
He moved to Colombe at four years old, in the south-east of France, and as a youngster began moving towards the professional game as an 11-year-old when he started playing for Racing Club de France, the lower level club where former Newcastle, Tottenham and France star David Ginola played during his younger years.
At 15 he was scouted by AS Nancy and started playing for the academy teams of the north-east club, where one of France's all-time greatest players, three-time World Player of the Year, Michel Platini, also began his career.
His debut arrived as a 19-year-old, playing in the Coupe de France round of 16 against lower-level Vénissieux in February 2013 and playing the full 120 minutes of a 2-0 victory after extra-time.
Another start followed in the quarter-finals, a 3-0 loss to Troyes, to earn a brief league debut on the final day of the Ligue Un season, coming on during the closing stages of a 2-1 win at Stade Brest.
By that time Amadou already had two France Under-19 caps on his CV, playing in friendlies against Portugal and Serbia in April 2012, alongside players including Watford star Abdoulaye Doucoure, Roma midfielder Jordan Veretout and Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.
He has subsequently been offered the chance to play for Cameroon at senior international level but was among a clutch of players to turn down the chance to play in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.
Some of those early experiences were as a centre-back, with the imposing prospect's physique making him a prime defensive candidate.
He became a regular for Nancy in the second tier during 2013-14, making 20 appearances as Les Chardons competed at the top end of the division, then becoming a first-choice defensive midfielder with 38 appearances during the following campaign.
By then Amadou's potential had caught the attention of bigger clubs and it was Lille who sealed his signature in the summer of 2015, after agreeing a reported fee of around £2million.
After completing that switch, speaking to Lille's website, he explained: "I was trained as a central defender, although sometimes I got to help out in the midfield. Last season, Pablo Correa, the Nancy coach, decided to get me back on my feet as a defensive midfielder. He thought me capable of being better in this position.
"I think he was right since I quickly felt good. I would describe myself as a player who harasses the ball carrier, who tries to recover as much as possible and improve them by playing simple."
REACTION: City fans really pleased with addition of Amadou
It proved a difficult start in the top tier however, playing for five different managers during his first two seasons. After barely featuring to start with, the second half of the 2015-16 campaign saw Amadou playing a key role for Lillie - reaching the final of the Coupe De La Ligue.
He played the full 90 minutes but couldn't prevent a 2-1 loss to PSG, playing in front of almost 70,000 people at the Stade de France, well and truly entering the big time.
A fine finish to the season brought Europa League qualification, only for major disappointment at the start of 2016-17 as Azerbaijani side Qabala knocked Lille out in the third qualifying round.
Another season of regular action, scoring twice in 41 games, brought a mid-table finish and the arrival of a rather well known coach: current Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa.
The former Argentina boss, renowned for his purist football ideals, immediately made Amadou his captain and the midfielder wore the armband throughout 2017-18.
'El Loco' only lasted half the season - amid unhappiness with the club's transfer business - and after another mid-table finish it was time for Amadou to move on, playing alongside Nicolas Pepe, a forward Arsenal have just paid a huge £72m to Lille for.
Top Spanish side Sevilla reportedly forked out around £12m and a four-year contract was signed last summer, but the opening three months were disrupted by injuries.
Europa League qualification was secured however just one of his five appearances was a start in the competition, against Turkish minnows Akhisarspor in the group stages and he made late cameos in both legs of a 3-0 aggregate win over Lazio in the first knockout round.
Despite making 32 appearances for Sevilla, just seven were league starts - not featuring in a 6-5 aggregate loss to Slavia Prague in the last 16 of the Europa League - but playing all of a 2-0 home win over Athletic Bilbao to secure sixth place on the final day in the Primera Division saw things end on something of a high.
However, change followed and with temporary boss Joaquin Caparros diagnosed with chronic leukaemia, former Spain and Real Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui arrived and around £100m has been splashed out on reshaping the squad.
That left Amadou on the fringes during pre-season and he has been among those finding themselves surplus to requirements, including Colombia international Luis Muriel, who impressed with two goals during Atalanta's 4-1 friendly win at Carrow Road last week after his £13m switch.
All of which has led to a Premier League opportunity with the Canaries - 18 months after he came close to joining Crystal Palace, being filmed leaving Selhurst Park looking disappointed during the latter stages of the January 2018 transfer window.
Reports at the time suggested an initial loan fee of £2m to be potentially followed by a £14m permanent switch in the summer, with West Ham also said to be interested, but Seville proved to be his destination ultimately.
Now it's a fresh start in Norwich, adding defensive steel to Daniel Farke's squad ahead of an undoubtedly challenging campaign mixing it with the big boys in the most watched league on the planet.