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The top defensive scorer of the year



Ellyes Skhiri's presence in Cologne's midfield is evident in the graphics of his ball action zones.

No player in the Bundesliga has scored more goals in 2023 than Ellyes Skhiri of 1. FC Köln. The 27-year-old is a defensive midfielder. The Tunisian will most likely leave Effzeh – because he has long been one of the best players in the league.

Manuel Neuer not only had to take a lot of criticism for his sensational interview. Many people were of the opinion that, in times of empty phrasemongering by football professionals, it was a real blessing to read the captain of FC Bayern Munich speaking freely.

Ellyes Skhiri speaks similarly openly. With him, however, it is not about biting criticism of his employer 1. FC Köln, but about his future there. After four years at Effzeh, Skhiri’s contract expires at the end of the season and, given the Tunisian’s statements, it takes a lot of imagination to believe that he will continue his career in Cologne.

“Of course I want to play internationally,” said Skhiri, for example, and this sentence alone is enough when you look at the Bundesliga table to know that Cologne’s chances will be pretty slim. The 27-year-old has already informed the club: “You know my ambitions, my desire to develop and maybe try something new. I can’t say it’s over. But my wish is to try something new and achieve new goals.”

In winter, after discussions with the coach and sports director there, he rejected a late offer from Olympique Lyon, Skhiri also revealed. The rumored interest of Eintracht Frankfurt, the Hessians shot Skhiri at the weekend with two goals and a brilliant performance on his own, he noted and described the SGE as a “good project” that could definitely be considered for him – because a change within Bundesliga is imaginable for Skhiri.

Ellyes Skhiri from 1. FC Köln: The best scorer of the year

He now hopes that sporting and financially strong clubs will contact him and that “it will be a little different than in recent years”. Because it was like this: “I wasn’t interested in clubs that matched my ambitions. Football is changing, there are more and more players whose contracts are expiring, so there’s a lot of competition in the market, but I won’t let myself from dreaming of big things.”

And rightly so, as Skhiri’s chances of moving to a club that suits him in the summer are excellent. And not just because “Flaco”, as he is called, has turned up incredibly in 2023 so far.

He has scored five goals since the Bundesliga resumed operations – no one has scored more often. But Skhiri is, for those who don’t know, a defensive midfielder. For comparison, only attackers Wissam Ben Yedder (AS Monaco), Victor Osimhen (SSC Napoli) and Marcus Rashford (ManUnited) have a better record to offer in 2023. Erling Haaland, on the other hand, is one goal behind Cologne…

Ellyes Skhiri is playing his best season at 1. FC Köln

“Ellyes is someone who is able to keep up the pace – in both directions. He influences the game. He can always be played. He does a lot right and hardly any mistakes,” said FC coach Steffen Baumgart about his sixes.

Skhiri came to the Rhine from HSC Montpellier in 2019 for six million, and his market value is now at least twice as high. Since then, the 52-time Tunisia international has steadily improved. Skhiri is currently playing his best Bundesliga season in many statistics that are crucial for a central midfielder.

  • In none of his previous three Bundesliga seasons has Skhiri had as many ball actions (66) and made as many passes (50) per 90 minutes as he currently does. His pass rate has also increased over the years and is currently 88 percent.
  • Skhiri’s improved pass rate is no indication that he is always looking for the easy pass. 22 percent of his passes this season end in the attacking third – the highest for him in the Bundesliga.
  • Skhiri has not only improved when playing with the ball – in none of his first three years in the Bundesliga has he gained as many possessions per 90 minutes as he has this season (8.2 times). Only Leverkusen’s Edmond Tapsoba (167) and Bayern’s Joshua Kimmich (162) captured the ball more often than Skhiri (153).
  • Decisive for this: his duel rate. Skhiri won 58 percent of all tackles this season. Only in the pre-season was the value as high, never higher.
  • Skhiri’s 36 intercepted passes are only surpassed in the Bundesliga by central defenders Marco Friedl (39), Ozan Kabak, Maya Yoshida (38 each) and Konstantinos Mavropanos (37). Among the central midfielders, Skhiri is the league leader.
  • At 12.3 kilometers and 18 sprints per 90 minutes, Skhiri runs and sprints less than in any of his previous seasons. With a total of 230.3 kilometers, he is still the strongest runner in the league.

Ellyes Skhiri: Frankfurt and BVB are interested

This list impressively underlines what a loss Skhiri’s departure will be for Cologne – and how big the profit is for the club that fishes him. It is likely that Skhiri will have plenty of choice.

In addition to numerous clubs from abroad, Borussia Dortmund is also among those interested. At BVB, a change from Jude Bellingham could free up a squad place. With his reliability, willpower, running strength and aggressiveness, Skhiri would have exactly the virtues that sports director Sebastian Kehl would like to emphasize when putting together the team.

The rumors about a move to Frankfurt, on the other hand, are fed not only by Skhiri’s achievements but also by the likely departures of Daichi Kamada and Djibril Sow. In any case, it will be an interesting race for the transfer of the most defensive goalscorer of the year. The call from Cologne’s stadium announcer Michael Trippel, who added the addition to the announcement after Skhiri’s goal to make it 3-0 against Eintracht “He who belongs in Cologne” spoke into the microphone will most likely go unheard.

Ellyes Skhiri: Comparison with all BL midfielders with at least 1000 minutes of play

category shiri League Rank best value
game minutes 1687 6 1773 (Anthony Losilla)
Ball actions per 90 min. 66 10 103 (Joshua Kimmich)
Passes per 90 min 50 8th 81 (Joshua Kimmich)
pass rate 88% 3 90% (Joshua Kimmich)
tackle rate 58% 4 63% (Julian Weigl)
Ball wins per 90 min. 8.2 5 9:2 (Edimilson Fernandes)
Running distance per 90 min (km) 12.3 4 12:4 (Eric Martel)