Victor Orta makes ‘one-hit wonder’ prediction about £40m rated midfielder Leeds United watched 20 times

The Leeds United director of football claims nobody could have predicted Azzedine Ounahi’s emergence as a breakout star at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar this year
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Orta claims the Moroccan international, who was instrumental in their run to the semi-finals and is currently being touted for a £40 million January transfer, may never perform at a similar level again, based on the context surrounding his World Cup displays and his own experience scouting the player.

22-year-old midfielder Ounahi currently plays his football with French side Angers and as recently as 2021, was playing in the third tier with Avranches. Orta claims his network of scouts at Leeds have been following the World Cup semi-finalist for two years, after being approached about the player by chairman Andrea Radrizzani.

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"Even my president wrote to me,” Orta told Radio Marca. “’Where was he that we didn't see him?' He has been the revelation player. We've known him for two seasons. Regarding his season at Angers, I was surprised by just one thing: the physical level. He used to be more of a trotón [Spanish word used to describe a more languid, less dynamic player].

Morocco's midfielders #08 Azzedine Ounahi and #15 Selim Amallah celebrate winning the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group F football match between Canada and Morocco at the Al-Thumama Stadium in Doha on December 1, 2022. (Photo by Fadel Senna / AFP) (Photo by FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images)Morocco's midfielders #08 Azzedine Ounahi and #15 Selim Amallah celebrate winning the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group F football match between Canada and Morocco at the Al-Thumama Stadium in Doha on December 1, 2022. (Photo by Fadel Senna / AFP) (Photo by FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images)
Morocco's midfielders #08 Azzedine Ounahi and #15 Selim Amallah celebrate winning the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group F football match between Canada and Morocco at the Al-Thumama Stadium in Doha on December 1, 2022. (Photo by Fadel Senna / AFP) (Photo by FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images)

“But the emotion [of a World Cup]: does he feel the same when he puts on the Angers shirt as when he knows that his whole country is behind him? All that makes us contextualise performances.

"I don't want to talk about Totò Schillaci, [El-Hadji] Diouf and all those one-hit-wonder players who excelled at a World Cup or European Championship but then their careers weren't the same.

“Ounahi has played unbelievable, he has played in an unbelievable context. Now you have to look at bringing him out of that context. He's had a great performance, but to sign a player [after watching him for] five games - and hopefully he has a wonderful career going forward because he's got conditions.

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“I invite everyone to watch 20 Angers games. Maybe they will tell me that he is a slightly different player. But maybe this will help him to put himself on the other step and make a different trajectory because it generates that confidence to show himself in the first showcase of the World Cup.

“But if a sporting director says he thought Ounahi was going to perform like this, he's lying,” Orta finished.

Ounahi has been linked with a £40 million switch to Leicester City following his displays at the Finals, but Orta refuses to be convinced by a player whose performances of note have occurred in five matches during the unique circumstance of a World Cup.

Orta’s reference to Salvatore ‘Totò’ Schillaci, and former Leeds player El-Hadji Diouf is a nod to their performances at the 1990 and 2002 World Cup Finals, respectively. Schillaci finished that tournament as top scorer, but netted just one more international goal during his career and retired at the age of 32 after three seasons in Japanese football.

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Diouf on the other hand burst onto the scene in South Korea and Japan in 2002 where his fearless Senegal side shocked France in their opening game, defeating the winners of four years earlier 1-0. The Senegalese forward subsequently earned a move from RC Lens to Liverpool following the tournament but struggled to leave his mark on English football, aside from a brief spell with Bolton Wanderers, soon becoming a journeyman, turning out for the Whites, Doncaster Rovers, Rangers, Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers.