The 19-year-old has netted 10 times for Montpellier in Ligue 1 in 2021-22 and is averaging a goal every other game in terms of top-flight minutes
The top-scoring teenager in Europe’s ‘Big Five’ leagues in 2021-22?
Unless you have been paying particular attention to French football this season, it is not an easy question to answer.
Despite marking the first day of May with his 10th league goal of the campaign, Elye Wahi’s performances for Montpellier have gone under the radar for most casual fans of European football.
But a closer look at his statistics suggest that the 19-year-old has the potential to become a household name sooner rather than later.
Not only is Wahi the youngest player in Montpellier history to reach double figures for goals in a single season, but he ranks third in terms of being the youngest player to score their 10th Ligue 1 goal – behind only Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele, and ahead of Thierry Henry.
Unsurprisingly, Montpellier moved quickly to tie the teenager down to a new contract in March 2022, but it won’t be long before bigger clubs from both within France and abroad come looking for a player who has shown from an early age that he knows where the goal is.
Born in Courcouronnes in the southern suburbs of Paris, Wahi’s first taste of organized football came at Suresnes, the same club that N’Golo Kante played for through his own teenage years.
Wahi joined the Hauts-de-Seine-based outfit at the age of seven, and it soon became clear that he was a revelation with the ball in the penalty area.
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“He was two or three years ahead of his peers in terms of what he could do,” explains Pierre Ville, the former Suresnes club president, to GOAL. “He quickly outclassed them.
“During a tournament that we hosted, I saw him score a volley with the ball falling vertically out of the sky, like watching [Zinedine] Zidane in the 2002 Champions League final, but the boy was just 11 years old! “
Football was everything for Wahi, though there were concerns regarding his education at times, with school not something he enjoyed.
“It was not a question of intelligence, but school was a lot of hard work for him,” Ville recalls.
“He was always playing with his ball as football occupied his mind. He loved the game, especially playing matches.”
By the age of 13, professional academies were beginning to take notice of Wahi’s talent, and he took the decision to join Caen – coincidentally, another of Kante’s former sides – at the age of 13.
The decision to move to Normandy was, in part, so as to remain within decent driving distance of the home he shared with his mother and sister, while also entering a youth system that has been known to give its best players a clear pathway to the first team.
That opportunity, however, did not arise for Wahi, despite him scoring 89 goals in a single season while he was playing for the club’s Under-15s.
Instead, he left Caen for non-footballing reasons and, in the summer of 2018, was back in the outskirts of Paris and without a club.
He received some offers from England at that time, but opted for Montpellier, where he would reunite with the ex-Caen academy director Francis de Taddeo, who had just taken up a similar role with La Paillade.
“He is a powerful, athletic and fast player with a range of dribbling skills where only he knows what he is going to do next,” De Taddeo told France Bleuand Montpellier fans have been able to witness those talents ever since he made his senior debut against Metz in December 2020.
Though his second Ligue 1 appearance did not come until a month later against Monaco, Wahi marked it with a goal, making him the second-youngest scorer in Montpellier history.
He backed that up with two further strikes before the season was out, as he was largely used as a substitute by manager Michel Der Zakarian.
That role continued in the early months of Olivier Dall’Oglio’s tenure after he replaced Der Zakarian in the summer of 2021, but after scoring just once in the first four months of the campaign, Wahi has exploded since December, establishing himself as a regular starter .
In his Ligue 1 career to date, he averages a goal every 177 minutes, and there are few players his age who can claim to have a goal-every-other-game ratio at such a high level.
Off the field, Wahi has integrated well into the Montpellier squad, and was voted as the best singer in the squad after performing his version of ‘Premier Gaou’ by Magic System during his initiation.
That will (literally) have been music to Wahi’s ears, who takes his vocal talents a little more seriously than most footballers.
“Elye is passionate about music,” a close friend tells GOAL. “He likes to go to concerts and even sings pretty well himself.
“Without ever thinking about breaking through and making it a career, he sometimes goes to the studio to sing. It’s his hobby.”
Despite his off-field interests, what remains most important for Wahi is now continuing to make sweet music on the football field, and building on what has been a breakout season for him in his homeland.
If he is able to do just that, then the rest of the world will very soon learn his name.
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