“I’m nobody yet.” Yann Karamoh explained, “Even if tomorrow I am told, ‘Yann, you are someone,’ I do not want to portray a different image than that of simplicity... I always take the bus, people have known me as Yann, not as the footballer.” When speaking with Ouest France in 2016 Karamoh counted just a handful of games to his name over less than 4 months with the Caen senior side. However, little more than a year later Karamoh’s eye catching turn and stunning winner on his Inter Milan debut has European football talking about Yann the footballer.
On the day Lillan Thuram’s only two international goals helped Aime Jacquet’s France squeeze past Croatia and into the 1998 World Cup final, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast Yann Karamoh was born. Moving to France just two years later, professional football has been the young forward’s only aim, signing for Racing Club de France, a prominent youth team near Paris, at the age of 7 before his first professional deal came with Stade Malherbe de Caen in December 2015, still just 17. The upward trajectory of Karamoh’s career since has been startling, perhaps even hasty, as after a solitary, although admittedly very productive, year in Ligue 1 with Caen, he signed for Inter Milan last summer on a two year loan with an option to buy, still only 19.
"He has incredible qualities,” reported Caen coach Patrice Garande after Karamoh’s first Ligue 1 start in August 2016. “He did not concern me because he is a boy who has no pressure. He does not show emotions.” This was true of Karamoh throughout his first year in the french top flight, he espoused a laid-back, confident persona and although Caen lost in Lyon that day, Karamoh stood out, as OL full back Maciej Rybus will testify, before the Ivorian underlined his potential in aiding Garande’s team to a 2-0 victory over visiting Bastia the following week.
A slight injury and sheer youth saw Karamoh flutter in and out of the side for the rest of 2017, scoring his first league goal in defeat at Angers in September but it was during the second half of the year that his fledgling Ligue 1 career flourished. Scoring in consecutive games in December, Karamoh eventually cemented his place in Garande’s 11 for final run of the season, ending the campaign with 5 goals and 4 assists over 35 outings as interest from abroad, Fiorentina and Inter in particular, was already starting to develop.
Karamoh’s acceleration and dribbling abilities as a winger were the main attraction but he started out as a central forward in Caen’s youth sides, playing as a striker or just off the main forward. Although as Karamoh admits playing in the lower divisions is much divorced from Ligue 1 football: ”Ligue 1 is men's football.” he recounts, “Before, in the U17, U19 or CFA, I could go to a match and say, "today, I will score two goals". I had fun saying that to people, I was doing it. But in Ligue 1, you can not do it".
This perhaps suggests an arrogance in the young Ivorian, but he also is well aware of how far he has yet to come, particularly overawed when faced with Cavani and friends as Paris rattled six past Caen last season; "Beyond the score, it's in matches like this that you understand that you have to continue working when you're young, There are still steps to take, you become aware of where you are, what you want to do in your career. In front of you, is a team that plays in the Champions League with players like Cavani, Matuidi and Maxwell. Not even six months ago, I watched them on TV ".
The teenage Karamoh is simply a little more relaxed about his recent rise to prominence that others might be in his position but a more ferocious, competitive side is also evident as lofty expectations come from within to perform but perhaps also a youthful naivety. “That's my concern - when I miss. It takes it out of me. I am someone who doesn't like losing and I always want to do more offensively. It means dribbling, shooting and scoring and when I struggle I'm in my bubble and my only goal is to score. As long as I have not scored, the pressure will not go down.“
Opportunities have been infrequent for the 19 year old at Inter this season as Luciano Spalletti has used him sparingly - seen to be little more than to be bench warming aside from starting a sole Coppa Italia tie. As a result Karamoh joined many an Inter fans in being caught off guard as he was preferred to Antonio Candreva for the visit of Bologna. "To be a starter was a bit of a surprise. The coach told me to make use of my pace and speak with my teammates. To play at San Siro is incredible. To go off to applause was an indescribable feeling, but a wonderful one.” The ovation was deserved, Karamoh capped a lively full debut with a slalom burst towards the Bologna box before wiping a left foot effort around Antonio Mirante, eventually winning the game.
The confidence he displayed at Caen, perhaps not evident in his fleeting Inter showings to date, had returned. His pace and direct style proving troublesome on the flank while not being afraid to use his skill and vision - a deft ball into the channel for Brozovic to cross for the Eder’s opener being a highlight. Immediately after Karamoh gave Inter the lead he could have finished the game, finding himself one on one with Mirante but shooting straight at the keeper. Despite his youth career as a striker, this is one of a few areas he needs to improve upon as Spalletti highlighted post game.
Karamoh’s rise has been steep and it was beginning to look as if the move to Italy was a little hasty with so few minutes over the Autumn while Caen had hoped that he would, as Ngolo Kante did, stay a further year after initial interest. Nevertheless, although he has some way to go, this pacey winger isn’t simply a young lad on the bus anymore, it might be time for a teammate to point out: ‘Yann, you are someone’ now.