Meet Pione Sisto: Australia’s biggest threat?

by Sebastian Hassett on Feb 08, 2018

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Scan down the Wikipedia page of the Danish national team and you’ll find a midfielder with 10 caps to his name and zero International goals.

And while the rest of the midfielders in the Danish squad play for famous European teams like Tottenham, Ajax, Bordeaux, Werder Bremen and Copenhagen, this particular midfielder plays for Celta Vigo, a team that has bounced between Spain’s top two divisions and finished 13th last year.

So far, so what, right? Well, Pione Sisto is having the mother of all break-out seasons – and he might just be the biggest threat to Australia’s hopes of reaching the second round at the World Cup.

We all know about Christian Eriksen. His talents know no bounds and we’re all gearing up to hold our breaths for 90 minutes whenever he gets the ball in Samara on June 21. And no doubt we’ll rhapsody plenty about his talents in the weeks and months to come.

But you can bet every rouble you have that Eriksen will be given the tightest treatment imaginable by Socceroos coach Bert van Marwijk, who won’t be hesitant to give the Spurs’ star what might be termed the “De Jong treatment”.

However, while that may stifle the team’s biggest star, it will almost certainly open up opportunities for others. That’s where Sisto will come into his own. The 23-year old has been an absolute revelation for Celta Vigo this season.

But because he doesn’t play for one of La Liga’s biggest clubs, it’s probable you’ve never heard of him – unless you’re an obsessive who trawls through blogs, videos and dodgy streaming sites just to get a glimpse of Iberia’s finest.

While you don’t need to be mad for Spanish football to know how well Lionel Messi is going this season (20 goals and 10 assists, leading both categories), you might be surprised to see that it’s Sisto who is nipping at his heels in the assists department, with nine to his name.

Given Sisto plays in a vastly inferior team, it’s a remarkable effort from the Ugandan-born midfielder – who has more than assists than Barcelona icon Jordi Alba, Atletico Madrid superstar Antoine Griezmann, Barca’s Mr-Fix-It Sergi Roberto and the Portuguese sensation himself, Gonçalo Guedes.

Perhaps you saw him star for FC Midtjylland against Manchester United in the Europa League exactly two years ago. But since his move to La Liga in July 2016, for just €5 million, he’s only gone from strength to strength, adding nine goals from his midfield position.

“Sisto is extremely unpredictable, which makes him very difficult to defend against. He's self-confident, always trying to invent new moves on the pitch, and is not afraid to shoot from difficult positions,” wrote Four-Four-Two’s Michael Yokhin.

“Lightning quick and possessing great dribbling skills, he regularly wreaks havoc for defenders when running forward with the ball at his feet. He has good vision, is unselfish and has managed to improve his end product and the quality of his crosses. Sisto is versatile too, able to play on both wings and in the centre, and also takes a mean free-kick.”

Yet here’s the kicker: the equal-third highest assist provider in La Liga is Sisto’s teammate, Daniel Wass (with seven). And in case you were wondering, he’s Danish, too. And quite often, Sisto has to play on the left so that Wass can play on the right.

He recently talked about how he outsmarted Real Madrid’s Marcelo in Celta’s recent 2-2 draw, exploiting the Brazilian’s lack of defensive work – so he’s clearly one of the smartest players going around.

Wass hasn’t been in the past two Danish squads, but we’re tipping that absence is temporary, despite the notable depth that exists in this squad.

Although if he isn’t considered good enough to be called up in June, perhaps we should be even more fearful.