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Sean Wallace: Resurgent Dante Polvara can be Ylber Ramadani replacement

Midfielder Dante Polvara won more duels than any Aberdeen player in the 3-1 loss to Celtic and also pitched in with the most tackles and passes in the Hoops' final third

Aberdeen midfielder Dante Polvara in action against Celtic. Image: Shutterstock.
Aberdeen midfielder Dante Polvara in action against Celtic. Image: Shutterstock.

Resurgent midfielder Dante Polvara can be a ready-made replacement for Albanian international Ylber Ramadani.

Ramadani transferred to Italian Serie A club Lecce for a fee understood to be £1.2million plus add-ons.

The loss of Ramadani was an unexpected blow – but the midfielder had made it clear he wanted to move to Italy.

Banking a seven-figure fee for a player the Dons signed from MTK Budapest for just £100,000 last summer will have eased the pain of Ramadani’s departure.

However, he was a highly influential figure in the heart of midfield for the Dons last season.

Aberdeen's Ylber Ramadani kicking the ball during a friendly against Turriff United
Aberdeen’s Ylber Ramadani scores to make it 3-0 during a pre-season friendly against Turriff United. Image: SNS.

Dons boss Barry Robson recently said he was confident of signing a player to fill the void left by Ramadani’s exit.

But the answer could already be in the building with Polvara.

Anyone doubting the 23-year-old’s ability to stamp his presence and mix it physically in midfield, like Ramadani did, should look at the stats from the 3-1 loss to Celtic.

Polvara came out top in more one-to-one battles than any other Aberdeen player against the Hoops. He had 15 duels and won eight.

The closest to Polvara in those battling stats was captain Shinnie, who also had 15 duels, but only won five.

Polvara also topped the aerial duel stats against the Hoops with three, level with centre-backs Slobodan Rubezic and Jack MacKenzie.

Dante Polvara in action for Aberdeen against Celtic
Dante Polvara of Aberdeen in action against Celtic. Image: Shutterstock.

The American also pitched in with the joint-highest amount of key tackles with three. the same as Nicky Devlin and Ryan Duncan.

Defensively he got stuck in against the Premiership leaders and made his presence felt.

Let’s not forget – Ramadani played in the heart of midfield for the Dons in the final two games against Celtic last season where they were hammered 5-0 and 4-0.

In those matches, the Reds failed to lay a glove on Celtic and did not register a single shot on target.

Offensively Polvara also shone against the Premiership champions on Sunday.

He had more passes than any other Aberdeen player in Celtic’s final third, with 16.

Dante Polvara in action
Dante Polvara in action against Livingston. Image: Shutterstock.

Polvara also had two shots at goal, one on target, and engineered himself into scoring opportunities.

The stats suggest Polvara does have the aggression, energy and talent to fill the void opened up by Ramadani’s transfer.

Aberdeen beat competition from Hibs, as well as teams in Italy, Germany and the MLS to sign Polvara from Georgetown University in January 2o22.

Making the move from American college football to the Scottish Premiership was always going to be a huge step up in levels, and Polvara struggled to make a sustained impact last season and was sent on a five-month loan to Charleston Battery in the USL Championship.

The midfielder was a regular first-team starter at Charleston and was key in their rise to the top of the Eastern Conference table.

He returned to Pittodrie this summer rejuvenated and bursting with confidence.

When Polvara signed for Aberdeen, I phoned his Georgetown University coach Brian Wiese in the US for a lowdown on the player.

Wiese was gushing in his praise for Polvara, and hailed him as a “complete midfielder” and a “special player”.

He explained how Polvara can score, defend, attack, is strong in the air and can deliver defence-splitting through-balls.

Polvara displayed those qualities against Celtic, particularly in the first-half.

In chatting to Jonny Hayes after the 3-2 friendly defeat of Charlton Athletic, the veteran said Polvara was Aberdeen’s “most complete player”.

Aberdeen's Dante Polvara competing for the ball
Aberdeen’s Dante Polvara (L) and Preston’s Duane Holmes during a pre-season friendly. Image: SNS.

Polvara is beginning to deliver on his promise and clearly has a style of play that fits into Robson’s high-tempo, high-press philosophy.

Despite Polvara’s emergence, Robson still needs to sign at least two midfielders before the transfer window closes – a combative, tough-tackling enforcer and a creative playmaker to bring a spark to turn a game in the Dons favour.

Aberdeen attempted to secure a playmaker when pursuing Croatian Tonio Teklic, but lost out to Turkish side Trabzonspor.

With Euro group stage action loomingm, more depth is definitely needed in midfield before the window closes.

However, Polvara could also be the answer that could keep any new additions out of the first-team starting line-up.

Aberdeen's Dante Polvara running with the ball, two Turriff players on his tail
Aberdeen’s Dante Polvara gets away from two Turriff players. Image: Shutterstock.

Devlin bounced back from mistake

Summer signing Nicky Devlin showed his character by bouncing back from his costly error in the 3-1 loss to Celtic.

Devlin was impressing in a back-three until a misjudged header back towards keeper Kelle Roos was intercepted by Kyogo Furuhashi.

Defender Devlin was completely oblivious to Furuhashi’s presence behind him.

You can’t give gifts to players of Furuhashi’s quality, and last season’s top scorer in the Premiership punished the error by firing home.

Lesser players would have cracked and let that mistake derail their performance for the remainder of the game. Particularly given it was Devlin’s home debut, when he will have been desperate to impress many fans who had not seen him in action for the Dons before.

The costly error also came soon after Aberdeen had levelled through Bojan Miovksi and were in the ascendancy.

Instead of crumbling, Devlin maintained his composure and impressed for the remainder of the game.

Aberdeen's Nicky Devlin looking dejected
Aberdeen’s Nicky Devlin looks dejected after his mistake led to a Celtic goal. Image: SNS.

He pitched in with a superb block on a close-range Daizen Maeda volley to prevent what would certainly have been a goal.

Devlin showed his strength of character in not letting that mistake affect him.

We all make mistakes. It is how you respond to them that counts.

Devlin quickly moved on and rightly didn’t let it eat away at him.

Nicky Devlin of Aberdeen deflects a shot from Daizen Maeda off the line. Image: Shutterstock.

Beware in-form underdogs Stirling

Aberdeen face a potential banana skin when playing League One Stirling Albion in the Viaplay Cup on Friday evening.

Managed by former Dons captain Darren Young, the Binos have lost just once in their last 26 games in all competitions.

Darvel Football club celebrating after winning a game against Aberdeen
Darvel celebrate a famous win against Aberdeen back in January 2023. Image: SNS.

Their threat cannot be underestimated.

For proof of what can go wrong in a cup tie, the Reds need only look back to the disaster in Darvel in January.

That was the most shameful result in Aberdeen’s 120-year history.

The memory of that dark day must fire the Dons on against Stirling.