His career at Paris Saint-Germain may have failed, but Christopher Nkunku has taken the Bundesliga by storm.
Nkunku was the bright spark in the middle of RB Leipzig’s dismal start to the season. The playmaker has shone for the Bundesliga as he used sensational performances to kick off his 2021-22 season.
But its highlight so far has undoubtedly come in Leipzig’s Champions League group stage clash with Manchester City last month.
The Frenchman was probably unsure whether to laugh or cry after scoring a hat-trick, but Leipzig eventually succumbed to a crushing 6-3 defeat.
Christopher Nkunku lights up RB Leipzig’s pitch with a sensational start to the season
With two heads and an emphatic right foot, the 23-year-old became the first Leipzig player to score a Champions League hat-trick as well as the second player to do so against the Citizens, after only Lionel Messi – no bad company.
“I scored three goals, but each time they scored again,” said Nkunku after a bittersweet night at the Etihad Stadium. “We had to be better and stay focused.
His prodigious quality hasn’t been limited to the Champions League, however, as he has found the net nine times and recorded three assists in 10 games in all competitions so far this season.
Nkunku scored a hat-trick in Leipzig’s 6-3 Champions League loss to Man City last month
It’s no big surprise either that he’s in good shape, given his contribution of 12 goals and 27 assists in 84 appearances over the past two seasons.
Nkunku can do business on the pitch as a No.10, No.8 or a winger. He started his life as a winger, but proved to be more effective in the middle.
There he can expand his range of passing options while still retaining his ability to dribble past his marker with quick feet and core strength.
With such versatility at his disposal, Red Bull boss Jesse Marsch said Nkunku had “no weaknesses”.
“We talked to Christopher a lot about playing at the counter, and also about what he needs to do to play as a striker, No 10 and on both wings,” Marsch said via the club website.
‘Christophe has no weaknesses. He is young and still wants a lot more.
The Frenchman scored Leipzig’s second goal in his 3-0 Bundesliga win over Bochum
“It’s always a good thing when a young player listens to what we’re saying and wants to implement it as well.
“Working with him is a lot of fun because he’s really smart and has a lot of potential.”
Unsurprisingly, his impressive career at Leipzig caught the attention of Europe’s upper echelons. An elite trio of Manchester City, Chelsea and Real Madrid are reportedly chasing the Frenchman.
Real are the most serious contenders for signing Nkunku, as Los Blancos have reportedly been offered the option of signing the midfielder next summer.
According to Mundo Deportivo in Spain, Nkunku’s agent Pini Zahavi has contacted Real Madrid to probe a possible deal at the end of the season.
Nkunku would have two more years on his Leipzig contract next summer and is valued at over £ 40million.
The 23-year-old’s hat-trick against City reportedly caught Pep Guardiola’s attention
A sale would see Leipzig pocket a nice profit after the German side bought Nkunku for just over £ 11million on a five-year contract in 2019 – a good deal in hindsight.
Leipzig have already seen two of their teams of French prodigies leave Red Bull Arena after Ibrahima Konate arrived at Anfield and Dayot Upamecano moved on to Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich this summer.
Now Nkunku could be next – but a meeting with former PSG boss Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea would not be the desired outcome.
Born in Lagny-sur-Marne, an eastern suburb of Paris – and in the same commune as Paul Pogba – Nkunku joined PSG at the age of 13.
Nkunku ran through the youth ranks in the French capital and passed into the ranks of the first team in the summer of 2015 under Laurent Blanc, alongside Presnel Kimbembe and future Leipzig teammate Jean-Kevin Augustin.
The midfielder walked through the youth ranks of PSG before being promoted to the first team
He made his first-team debut the following December, replacing Lucas Moura during the Champions League clash between PSG and Shakhtar Donetsk.
In doing so, he became the sixth youngest debutant in Ligue 1 at the age of 18, two months and 25 days.
Despite his rivalries with Adrien Rabiot, Marco Verratti, Angel Di Maria, Javier Pastore and Thiago Motta for a place in the engine room of PSG during his four seasons in the first team, Nkunku still managed to accumulate 78 appearances all competitions combined for Parisians. , by winning 10 trophies along the way.
In his last and most prolific season in the French capital, Nkunku played 22 Ligue 1 matches, including 13 starts, with three goals and two assists.
But, amid the wealth of talent decked out by Neymar and fellow French starlet Kylian Mbappe, Nkunku’s career at PSG never really took off.
Life at the Parc des Princes came to a halt in 2019 under Tuchel’s tenure, as he moved to Leipzig with a year remaining on his contract with PSG in search of playing time.
Nkunku appeared alongside fellow French starlet Kylian Mbappe (left) and Neymar (right)
And the product of PSG has already castigated the current Chelsea boss for his role in his exit.
Talk to Canal Plus, he declared: “The arrival of Tuchel made me think.
“The fact of starting a season without really knowing what role we are going to have is quite complicated. There comes a time when you come to the end of your contract and you have a year left, either you extend or you leave, I made the choice to simply leave. ‘
Nkunku will now face his former side as Leipzig travel to Paris for their Champions League group stage clash.
Of Congolese origin, Nkunku represented France in the Under-21 category but has not yet received a summons to the senior team from Didier Deschamps.
The plethora of young French players deserving of an international call is almost disgusting and the Red Bull star couldn’t make his way into the Blues squad for Euro 2020.
But his impressive role at club level could count him for the 2022 World Cup squad on the road to Qatar.