Speculation about a move to Europe’s elite for Patson Daka is somewhat inevitable because in-form players at Red Bull Salzburg get noticed and the Zambia striker is the latest.
The 22-year-old has made his mark at the Austrian champions, a club famous in recent years for producing high-profile talent, including Sadio Mane and Erling Haaland.
While Daka, who was named the Confederation of African Football’s Young Player of the Year in 2017, is a modest man he is also very determined and takes inspiration from the best on the continent.
“To see our big brothers like (Pierre-Emerick) Aubameyang, (Mohamed) Salah, (Sadio) Mane, it’s something that gives me the dream that I can also make it,” he enthuses.
“I can be like them. They are my inspiration, knowing that they also come from Africa.
“I think when people are making those kind of comparisons, it’s great, looking at the status of Sadio Mane, the kind of football he plays and the kind of person that he is.”
It is not just on the pitch where Daka can be likened to Mane. Both have a humility, almost a shyness, and keep a low profile.
“My biggest dream is to give hope to a lot of underprivileged people,” says Daka.
“When I look back I want to be proud to hear people say, ‘because of you, I never gave up my dream.
“You gave me the opportunity to believe in myself,’ because I know how difficult it is.”
Daka has been on the books of Salzburg since 2017 after initially moving to Austria on loan from Zambia’s Kafue Celtic to Salzburg’s second-tier feeder team Liefering.
His rise to the top began in Zambia when he joined an African football programme called Airtel Rising Stars when he was a teenage which propelled him to play in the domestic top-flight soon after.
It was his goal-scoring exploits for the national youth teams caught the attention of the 12 Management agency, which is run by former Spurs and Mali striker Freddie Kanoute, and he was soon playing for Liefering.
Or the next Eto’o?
One man who is also backing Daka to be one of Africa’s finest exports is the Zambia national team coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredejovic.
“I would say he’s on the road to replace what Samuel Eto’o once was in representing Africa and African football,” says the Chipolopolo coach.
“He could be compared to Sadio Mane or Samuel Eto’o, with the level of skill and speed that he has. With the sense for space, sense of positioning, in the right place at the right time.”
Micho says that Daka’s attitude as well his talent will see him go even further.
“I look at his football heart. I look at his football soul. And I look at his football mind,” he says.
“Knowing his heart, mind and soul, I’m fully convinced that he’s on a very good road to reach his full potential. I believe he has everything that it takes.
“Now the other factors are important; to choose the right environment where he could excel that would suit his potential.”
Daka fits the profile of what many clubs are looking for, his explosive speed and a ruthlessness in front of goal make him a nightmare for defenders to mark.
He has already been linked to some of the Premier League’s top clubs including Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal during the last transfer window.
At the time Kanoute, reportedly said that Daka was staying put, however that resolve will be tested once again now the January window is open.
While Daka is determined to emulate some of Africa’s greatest stars he is also in no hurry to get there.
“I have to continue what I’m doing. We will see what the future will bring”, says Daka.
But Daka could be forgiven for being more a little more brash, considering his fruitful 2020 which saw him score 20 goals across the calendar year, including a brace in the Champions League against Maccabi Tel Aviv in September.
RB Salzburg failed to progress through a tough group made more difficult after Daka was injured in a defeat to Atletico Madrid ruled him out of most of their Champions League campaign.
That injury in October saw him miss Zambia’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Botswana meaning he was unable to add to his 20 international caps during 2020.
In recent years some of Europe’s biggest clubs have come to trust the kind of talent that RB Salzburg produce.
Liverpool have three of their former stars in their ranks; with Mane, Naby Keita and Takumi Minamino all once part of the RB Salzburg setup.
Dominik Szoboszlai recently made the move to Salzburg’s sister club in Germany, RB Leipzig, while Daka’s former strike-partner, Haaland, has made a huge impact since leaving to join Borussia Dortmund.
It certainly looks like Daka has plenty of choice over where he moves to next, but he says any move would not be a hasty one.
“The most vital thing that I’ve noticed is that the club don’t focus much about receiving big money for players. They’re more concerned about the development of the player,” he points out.
“You know what is going on. You’re not just left in the shadows, where you don’t know anything that’s happening.”
Daka is currently enjoying a winter break with the Austrian Bundesliga season set to resume on 24 January and the young striker is refusing to get drawn into any speculation about his future.
“I’m doing a lot of things right. I have to stay focused and, at the same time, I have to be careful and not go look at the media speculation because a lot is expected for me,” he insists.