What you need to know:
- The Frenchman’s figures for the 2021/22 season are almost ‘Mbappesque’
No player featuring in Europe’s top five leagues has improved as exponentially as RB Leipzig flier Christopher Nkunku. The Frenchman’s figures for the 2021/22 season are almost ‘Mbappesque’ if you will excuse the coinage.
Thirty-six goals across all competitions, including a Champions League hat-trick against Premier League champions Manchester City, should have the continent’s big guns taking a closer look.
Nkunku is the archetypal team player, just like former Paris Saint Germain team mate Kylian Mbappe, who just penned a €500m mega contract after topping both the goals and assist charts in Ligue One, the Bundesliga player of the season has chipped in with over twenty assists for Domenico Todesco’s German Cup winners.
Any team searching for a speedy, ambidextrous smooth operator ought to fork out the cash for Nkunku. Recently capped by Les Bleus boss Didier Deschamp, the 24-year-old is capable of improving any side because he can operate anywhere across the front three, as a half nine, or number 10.
Running Nkunku closest is Real Madrid wide man Vinicius Junior. The Brazilian dazzler’s rapid transformation from a busy for nothing speed merchant to a lethal forward with a penchant for scoring and creating goals has been a joy to behold. Was among the hordes that berated the Santiago Bernabeu side for splashing £38m on Vinicius when he was an untried 18-year-old.
Must admit he has come good. 20 goals and 16 assists have helped Los Blancos to the La Liga title and yet another Champions League final. Such has been his impact, most Brazil fans expect him to have a bigger impact at the Qatar World Cup than Neymar Jr.
From the Premier League, it’s difficult to look beyond West Ham United forward Jarrod Bowen. Hammers boss David Moyes deserves plaudits for plucking Bowen from the depths of Championship football to the upper echelons of the EPL where he’s tormenting defenders with regularity.
England boss Gareth Southgate would be committing a cardinal sin if he overlooked the former Hull City plugger from the Three Lions squad for the forthcoming Uefa Nations League matches.
Besides Bowen, the transformative impact Eddie Howe has had on Newcastle United’s Joelinton is monumental. Before Howe moved the Brazilian to the Magpies engine room, the word ‘flop’ was frequently bandied around when discussing Joelinton. Not anymore. The £40m former Hoffenheim forward is now a terrier who creates and scores goals while adding solidity to midfield.
Others to catch the eye include Aston Villa’s teenage sensation Jacob Ramsey who is a starter for Steven Gerrard’s ambitious Villains despite the presence of established stars like Phillipe Coutinho, Emiliano Buendia, Douglas Luiz and John McGinn; Leicester City’s hitherto unheard-of Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall who has become a midfield mainstay for Brendan Rodgers’s Foxes and Everton’s Demarai Gray who has been one of the top pound for pound signings of the season after arriving for £1.7m from Bayer Leverkusen.
From the Bundesliga, Nkunku’s former PSG team mate and friend Moussa Diaby has run him close whereas in La Liga Real Madrid pair Eder Militao and Rodrygo have helped Carlo Ancelotti assuage the effects of managing an ageing outfit. Rafael Leao has been Serie A’s standout performer.
Allan Ssekamatte is a seasoned pundit with over three decades in journalism