After a lengthy search for a defender, Palermo finally found one in Abdelhamid El Kaoutari who joins the Rosanero via French side Montpellier.
For much of the summer, Palermo’s number one target for Iachini’s back line was Empoli’s Lorenzo Tonelli. Yet, as is often the case with young-ish Italian players, Empoli’s asking price was way too high. Zamparini decided to do what he does best and look abroad for a cheaper – but just as good – alternative.
Enter Abdelhamid El Kaoutari. The 25 year old French-born, Moroccan international wasn’t a name many in Serie A are familiar with. In fact, even the usual transfer gossip sites hadn’t linked his name with the Sicilian club until the deal was practically done. Nevertheless, El Kaoutari was scooped up by Palermo DS Manuel Gerolin for a relatively cheap price of roughly two million euro. That number pales in comparison to what Empoli wanted for Tonelli (8 million).
The Moroccan defender has spent his entire career with Montpellier, from the youth ranks to the senior team. During that time, he was part of a side that won the French championship in 2012, albeit as a reserve (interestingly enough, he was a backup to current Roma defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa). In the subsequent years to follow the victorious 2011-12 campaign, El Kaoutari was a fixture in the club’s starting lineup.
His professional growth seems particularly impressive as he’s improved in his performances year after year. In the 2012-13 season, he managed 25 appearances (all starts) with just two yellow cards and one red. The following year, he achieved 32 appearances (33 starts) while maintaining a nearly identical disciplinary record (three yellow cards, one red). In fact, the red card was the result of two yellow cards picked up in the very first match of the season. And finally, last year, El Kaoutari started 37 of Montpellier’s 38 matches (he only missed the first game of the season) and played in every single minute to boot. Despite all that time on the pitch, he only accumulated three yellow cards and no reds.
Besides being a nearly immaculate disciplined defender, El Kaoutari’s strengths lie in good positioning, aerial dominance and excellent timing. He’s shown his reliability for Montpellier in Ligue 1 and the hope is that it easily translates for Palermo in Serie A. It seems he’ll be missed by supporters of the French club as well:
— PhilippaB (@Philby1976) July 28, 2015
El Kaoutari is a left-footed central defender who can also play at left back. He’s accustomed to playing in a four man back line but also expressed no issues playing a back three. The Moroccan admitted his excitement to join Palermo and even mentioned the fact that he had watched several games last season due to his good friend and co-national Achraf Lazaar being part of the Rosanero squad.
El Kaoutari: “To leave the club where I grew up (Montpellier) was difficult but to arrive in a squad like #Palermo is very satisfying.”
— Ultra Palermo (@UltraPalermo) July 28, 2015
It seems like El Kaoutari was a signing that both Beppe Iachini and Manuel Gerolin pushed for. Credit to Zamparini for getting the deal done quickly as there were rumors that Monaco was after the defender to fill gaps in their back line. Should El-K adapt quickly, it would be apparent that he slots into the starting lineup alongside Pipo Gonzalez and Roberto Vitiello. Regardless, Palermo now have an adequate defender to bolster the defense at a bargain price. Abdelhamid looks the part of a rugged, but graceful defender, let’s hope he can play the part too.