High above the streets of Leeds, where the exhaust fumes mingle with the odour of stale fish and chips, a lone figure stands atop Bridgewater Place, staring into the middle distance. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it the single most confusing beneficiary of Victor Orta’s recruitment policy? No! It’s… wait, what was that last one again?
Little is known about the mysterious entity they call Ouasim Bouy, and at the time of writing there has been just one confirmed sighting of him in a Leeds United shirt, during a 3-2 win for the U23s. What we do know is that he’s some kind of CB/DM hybrid, once judged good enough to appear for the Juventus first team but apparently so far from a first team slot at Leeds that not even our recent spate of red cards and injuries could open the door for him. The rest has been left to rumour; some say that he’s a mild-mannered IT technician by day and a one-man crimefighting unit by night, prowling the streets of Beeston and raining down justice on anyone who steps out of line.
This sort of improbable double-life may well be the reason for the failure of his loan spell with Cultural Leonesa, who sent him back in January amid complaints that he was lazy and constantly injured (come on, you think Batman never used to call in sick after a busy shift?). Coincidentally, just before Bouy pulled out of a match against Granada with an unspecified injury, a masked figure was seen on a rooftop in Leon knocking seven bells out of a bloke in a clown mask, before screaming ‘to nonentity and beyond!’ and racing off into the night. There might be nothing to it, but since Cultural packed him off back to Leeds street crime in southern Spain has risen 600% and the Rock of Gibraltar has been converted into a secret volcano lair.
His agent has certainly got some superpowers of his own, somehow persuading Leeds to offer Bouy a four-year deal. On paper he looks an interesting proposition, showing enough promise within the famed Ajax youth system to entice Juventus into poaching him. That was almost six years ago and, after loaning Bouy six times to four different countries, Juve seemed to come to the conclusion that the 24-year old wasn’t going to cut it in Serie A and allowed him to join Leeds on a free.
He was whisked away to Cultural before we even had the chance to get excited, leaving a multitude of questions in his wake. It remains a mystery why the club was so keen to make such a hefty commitment to a player who, by their own admission, wasn’t ready to play Championship football. Two Segunda División appearances and no goals later, Bouy was on his way back to Leeds, and we were no closer to finding the answers.
I’m writing this in the immediate aftermath of the Wolves game, which featured a nasty-looking injury to Liam Cooper followed by a floundering performance from Matthew Pennington. By the time this goes out I expect that Pontus Jansson will have tumbled from the tightrope of yellow where he’s been walking, leaving a whacking great chasm in a back line that’s been painfully porous recently. With Luke Ayling and Connor Shaughnessy some distance from a return, that leaves us with the option of hurling a youngster into the cauldron of Elland Road or using Gaetano Berardi as an emergency centre-back.
And then there’s Bouy, who, from the little I’ve seen of him, seems comfortable in possession with a preference for a kind of deep-lying ‘quarterback’ midfield role that enables him to ping long balls over the top with a cultured left foot, for pacy strikers to chase. Whether that means we’ve signed some continental species of Liam Cooper, I’m not sure, and it’s all too easy to imagine Pierre-Michel Lasogga grimacing in disgust as the ball soars over his head for the fifteenth time, but the team has conducted itself in such a wretched manner in 2018 that it’s hard not to look at Bouy and think, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’
After early promise, this season has become a succession of kicks in the jiminy jillickers, and something needs to change. Ouasim Bouy may not be the hero we want, or even the hero we deserve, but God knows we need one right now and I’d like to see him play. If he’s great, then great. If he’s indescribably bad, then it’ll at least satisfy my morbid curiosity about how awful he could be.
After all, a wise man once said ‘some men just want to watch the world burn’. Yeah, 22 years of watching Leeds will do that to you. ◉
(artwork by Grady Tidy)