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Done Deal: Manisa Futbol Kulübü Gets CPL’s MVP Nominee

CanMNT Winger, Ballou Tabla, Playing Against Honduras on March 25, 2021

As confirmed by Atletico Ottawa, Ballou Tabla has transferred to Turkish second-division side Manisa. Tabla spent just a single season with Ottawa, signing last off-season after being released by MLS side CF Montreal. The fee at the moment remains undisclosed. It would be a bit of a shock if it was not one of the higher transfer fees in Canadian Premier League history.

Manisa Futbol Kulübü sign Ballou Tabla from Atletico Ottawa

The former Canadian international looks to progress his career in Turkey

Ballou Tabla’s new club – Manisa, currently competes in the second tier of Turkish football. The club currently sits mid-table and has never been in the top flight of Turkey. They will look to push for promotion this season with the addition of Ballou Tabla to their squad.

Founded (or rather rebranded) in 2019, Manisa has climbed its way up the Turkish footballing pyramid to reach TFF 1. League.

After a season that saw him nominated for Most Valuable Player – Tabla will provide fierce competition for Manisa in attack

Last season in the Canadian Premier League, Tabla recorded six goals and four assists in 28 regular season games that helped Atletico Ottawa top the table. It ultimately landed him a nomination for Canadian Premier League Most Valuable Player.

About five years ago, Ballou Tabla was making headlines in Canadian soccer circles alongside FC Bayern Munich star, Alphonso Davies. He had just come an impressive season with Montreal and, in the winter transfer window, moved to Barcelona B. Tabla was still eligible for both the Ivory Coast (his birth country) and Canada at this time with even Chelsea legend Didier Drogba pushing for Tabla to play for Les Elephants. 

Ballou Tabla’s journey has been full of ups and downs but he is shining once again

After Tabla’s spell in Spain did not work out, he returned to Montreal and had difficulty returning to the form he showed as a teenager. In his last season with Montreal, Tabla scored two late goals versus Canadian Premier League side Halifax Wanderers in the Canadian Championship with Tabla looking likely to leave Montreal at the end of the season. It sparked discussion of a potential CPL move for Tabla and in earlier 2022 this became reality. The reclamation project move for Tabla and Ottawa has worked out for both sides.

Ottawa will need to find a Ballou Tabla replacement and it won’t be easy

Losing a player nominated for MVP is not easy to replace but after a turnaround off-season last year, Ottawa will be looking to do it again. If Ottawa wants to replicate the impact of Ballou Tabla, it likely won’t be coming from another Canadian, at least from the player pool of known free agents. Caniggia Elva is perhaps the only Canadian who if he’s healthy, could potentially have a big impact in the league. Conversely, it looks like after recovering from a long-term injury Elva is set to stay in Germany.

Ottawa will likely have to look internationally for a new “top” winger but with their Spanish connections that may help with the challenge. The club currently has 4 international slots open.

Embed from Getty Images

Tabla was not the only player subject to interest abroad. Goalkeeper Nathan Ingham and League MVP Ollie Bassett trained with Liga MX side Atleti San Luis. Fortunately for Atletico supporters, they have both returned and will be major parts of Ottawa building off of last season.

Young Spanish centre-back Diego Espejo is also another player who is attending pre-season with another team. He has joined Inter Miami for their pre-season, after having his loan extended with Atletico Ottawa, from Atletico Madrid.

With just 12 players under contract, Ottawa will be busy over the next couple of months.


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