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Obbi Oulare: Why Arsenal (and Stoke) shouldn't give Man Utd free run at superkid

He's the 19 year-old son of a gun named after a Baywatch character and dubbed the "most complete striker" in Belgium.

There's a growing excitement around Club Brugge prospect Obbi Oulare, who had scouts posted from Manchester United, Everton and Borussia Dortmund see him score last week against Anderlecht.

Standing at 6ft 5in, Oulare has been introduced gradually this season by Brugge coach Michel Preud'homme. But whenever he's been called upon, Oulare has made a huge impact, drawing comparisons with Aston Villa centre-forward Christian Benteke.

After seeing Oulare score against Westerlo earlier this season, KSV Roeselare coach Franky Van der Elst enthused: "Oulare showed his strength and athleticism for his goal.

"He may be the most complete striker in Belgium. There is still much to work on, but Oulare looks the real thing and is very young. Physically he should get even stronger."

Some call from Van der Elst, particularly for a player with barely a dozen senior games to his name. But Belgian football believe they've uncovered another gem.

A source with the RBFA told tribalfootball.com: "Van der Elst's opinion simply reflects what a lot of us now believe.

"What are his strengths? His heading, his power, his speed ... and he has great finishing ability.

"There's still some things he needs to improve, however, particularly endurance and his overall fitness."

That feedback has reached Oulare, who insists he'll get stronger.

"I'm still getting used to the demands of this (first team) level," says the youngster. "I'm confident I'll be fitter next season. I'll be able to contribute more."

The son of former Genk and Stoke City striker, Souleymane Oulare, Obbi penned a new deal with Brugge to 2018 just in September.

"The confidence that the club gives me means a lot," he said. "I could not ask for a better environment to learn in and I intend to make the club and the supporters proud."

Pascal De Maesschalck, the director of the Brugge Academy, drew real satisfaction from Oulare's new agreement. For those close to the player, without Brugge, Oulare could easily have been lost from football.

Oulare signed for Brugge's academy at 16 - the SIXTH club of his junior career. The youngster had passed through FC Brussels, Anderlecht, Lille, little Wasquehal and Standard Liege, before finally landing at Brugge.

"His contract is reward for him," says De Maesschalck, "but also great reward for all the people and coaches who work hard at the academy. This proves that our training is on track."

Speak to his former junior coaches and there was no doubting Oulare's natural talent. It was more his application and attitude which was lacking.

"Obbi was a bit lazy," admitted Lille youth chief Alain Wallyn.

"We sensed that he possessed qualities, but there were players who were more talented than him. Moreover, he was a bit lazy. A great worker, he certainly was not. He was able to do great things, but only when he felt like it."

In France and after five years with the Lille academy, Oulare virtually hit rock bottom, joining fourth division Wasquehal for a season before returning to Belgium at Standard.

However, it wasn't until 18 months ago, when he was embraced by the Club Brugge family, that his career began to rocket.

Brugge icon Gert Verheyen named Oulare in his Belgium U18 squad last season and was immediately won over.

"He has everything to make it as a top striker," says Verheyen.

Oulare has been likened to Lille's Liverpool-bound striker Divock Origi. But Verheyen, despite Origi's senior status with Belgium, rates Oulare the bigger talent.

"Divock Origi, with whom I worked with the U19s, is also strong. But the difference with Oulare is his weight ... 20 kilograms more. Obbi uses his body better to shield the ball.

"Oulare really plays to score goals. Divock example, does not always do this. He does not always have to score to be happy."

Oulare is aware of the comparison, but has another centre-forward he'd prefer to be compared with.

"I am compared to Origi? That's good, but is Origi Origi and I am Oulare. We are good friends, but Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) is my idol. I have his physique and hopefully will acquire his confidence and technique."

As for that name and the Baywatch influence, Oulare says it's all his Mum's doing.

"When my Mum was pregnant, she picked that name from the series Alerte à Malibu, where she found very cute a little boy who starred in it."

The son of David Hasselhoff's character was named 'Hobie', which in French sounds like Obbi.

While United, Everton and Sunderland have had scouts track his progress in recent weeks, Arsenal is currently on Oulare's mind - celebrating their progress to the FA Cup final on Twitter last weekend.

The teen hints the Premier League is his ultimate destination, conversing regularly on social media in English.

And Bart Wilmssen, the former Brugge coach, is adamant - the Premier League will be Oulare's future stage.

"The combination of size, power and technique makes him a prototype for the Premier League. He has everything an attacker needs to beat his defender. If he continues his evolution, many English clubs will form a queue to sign him."

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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