If you were to ask me who the best footballer currently playing in India is, I would not hesitate to answer Hugo Boumous. The calling card of a top player is when they make it look easy and it doesn’t seem as though Hugo has shifted out of first gear yet.
Since signing for FC Goa in early February, the languid Moroccan has set the Indian Super League alight. With laser guided passing as well as the fleet-footedness to dance past opponents, Boumous, is both the engine and firepower in a Goa side that has won plaudits for their approach to football. It is also no coincidence that Goa’s bad form ended when they promoted Boumous to the starting line-up. The Gaurs had 0 points in 3 games before they played him in the first 11 and his goal earned them a point against Delhi. He started the final 4 league games for Goa (which they had to win to qualify for the playoffs). The team scored 13 goals and conceded 1 in those games. From 3 losses in a row to 10 points in 4 games – Hugo Boumous had arrived.
It is also no coincidence that a free-scoring Goa team, suddenly dried up in the second leg of the playoffs against Chennaiyin FC. On that day too, Goa were without the passing and movement of both Brandon Fernandes and Boumous and Sergio Lobera's hand-picked replacement, Edu Bedia, struggled to recreate the magic.
"Hugo was called up for Morocco national under-23 football team that was to take part in a friendly in June 2016,but was released after getting caught smoking hookah with some other teammates"
Initially, the 23 year old was asked to play Edu Bedia’s “ball shuttler” role, and impressed Lobera so much that he was pushed further upfield and the mercurial Lanzarote shunted out to the wing. In his deep role, the pass master would pop into spaces vacated by Ahmed Jahouh to pick up the ball in space and then try to release one of the wide players in behind. These passes don’t usually get counted as assists but especially given the way Goa like to play, they are the most valuable.
The master of the pre-assist, he can hurt teams from anywhere, as seen in the first goal in this clip (and many other times this season!). With 2 touches, Boumous converts a pedestrian move that still had 10 Jamshedpur players behind the ball into a goal for Coro. Seriton Fernandes will get the assist for rolling it across the face of goal and Coro gets the goal but it is the French-born Moroccan that all the applause goes to.
If that shows his ability to pick passes from deep, Brandon Fernandes’ goal against Jamshedpur in the Hero Super Cup is a good indication of Boumous’ ability in the #10 role. Watch the entire video and you can see how critical the Goan #4 is to the side. In the Super Cup, Lanza has been left out of the side completely in favour of the new signing.
Hugo Boumous has been instrumental for Goa in the tournament and has recorded 3 goals and is only behind Willis Plaza in the Expected Goals leaderboard for the Hero Indian Super Cup. It must be noted that Willis Plaza has played 1 game more in the competition, so, for all intents and purposes, Boumous is numero uno. In the Expected Assists race, the central midfielder is only behind Jovel Martins and team-mate Ferran Corominas.
Boumous has high technical abilities as outlined above, but he’s also got amazing stamina to get up and down the pitch. I covered some light analysis of FC Goa’s press in their 5-1 win over ATK in February here. What’s interesting to note in those images is that Boumous is the player at the tip of the press but he also has the stamina to drop into his own half and help his team play out. Truly outstanding.
Edu Garcia was the undisputed “Assist King” for the 2017/18 season. Next year, I have no doubt that title will got to the Moroccan Medio, Hugo Boumous.