Christopher Nkunku just might be the hottest prospect in European football right now.
The Frenchman enjoyed a stunning season for RB Leipzig, scoring 35 goals and providing 20 assists in 51 matches across all competitions for the Bundesliga side.
Naturally, his success has seen him linked with a move to dozens of clubs, with Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain – his boyhood club – and Bayern Munich among those thought to be interested.
Here, Sportsmail looks at a player who will be high on the transfer target list of several European powerhouses this summer.
French forward Christopher Nkunku enjoyed a standout campaign for RB Leipzig
How did he get here?
Nkunku was born to Congolese parents in France and joined PSG’s academy at 13.
Promotion to PSG’s ‘B’ team soon followed, where he scored five goals in 27 matches before making his debut for the senior side at the age of 18, coming off the bench to replace Lucas Moura in a Champions League clash with Shakhtar Donetsk in December 2015.
He played in 78 games for PSG, scoring 11 goals, before making the switch to Leipzig in the summer of 2019 in search of more minutes.
Nkunku hit the ground running in his first Bundesliga campaign as he made an impressive 15 assists in 32 league matches before scoring six and assisting seven the following season.
But it was the recently-concluded campaign where he enjoyed a meteoric rise and really made his name.
He scored in the final of the German Cup as Leipzig won the competition for the first time
Just how good was he last season?
Outstanding, in fact. Nkunku lit up the Bundesliga last term as 20 goals and 15 assists in 34 matches saw him beat Bayern star Robert Lewandowski to the league’s player of the season award.
Nkunku started his career at Paris Saint-Germain, who he joined at the age of 13
The highly-rated forward scored in the final of the German Cup, which Leipzig won for the first time in their history by beating Freiburg on penalties, and was a key member of the team that reached the semi-finals of the Europa League.
Nkunku netted more than a quarter of his team’s goals in the league as he helped guide the club into the group stage of the Champions League with a fourth-placed finish.
His performances in the white and red of Leipzig earned him his first call-up to the French national team.
Nkunku made his debut for France in their 2-1 win over Ivory Coast in a friendly in March
Nkunku featured in both of France’s friendlies in March, against Ivory Coast and South Africa, and is surely a contender for inclusion in Didier Deschamps’ squad for the World Cup in Qatar.
He has made the £11million Leipzig payed Paris Saint-Germain for his signature look a bargain – and shows no signs of slowing down.
Where would he fit in?
You will be hard-pressed to find anyone in Europe who would not find a place for Nkunku on current form.
Of the Premier League sides believed to be interested in securing his services, Chelsea may be the most suitable, given Tuchel’s style does not seem to suit out-and-out strikers. Just ask Romelu Lukaku.
Tuchel also previously managed Nkunku at PSG and the player has only got better since.
Thomas Tuchel is familiar with Nkunku having coached the Frenchman when he was at PSG
Erik ten Hag is also reportedly interested in bringing Nkunku to the Premier League
Nkunku helped guide Leipzig to fourth in the Bundesliga after scoring 20 league goals
Nkunku needs a system to maximise his game and few managers in the world have a better structure in place than Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, while a move to United may come too soon for the Old Trafford club, who are embarking on a new era under Erik ten Hag and will not be playing Champions League football next season.
PSG is another possible destination. Nkunku played for the club at youth and senior level before leaving the comfort of France for Germany three years ago.
The player himself has hinted that the French capital may yet be his next destination. ‘Paris, I’ve always said it, it’s my home, my heart club,’ Nkunku said recently.
‘I don’t close any doors. Everything is possible in football.
‘It’s flattering to have the biggest clubs in the world interested in me. But it’s also flattering that Leipzig is doing everything to keep me.’
What would he bring to the Premier League?
Nkunku is renowned for his movement, link-up play and for dribbling through the middle but, despite his goalscoring antics at home and abroad, he is not yet as prolific as he could be, a worrying sign for opposition defences.
He has proven to be versatile, too. Nkunku was being shifted from wing back to central midfield to inside forward to centre forward in his first season at Leipzig, before nailing down a position as a second striker in the frontline.
Nkunku has shown his versatility by playing in several positions during his career to date
The French forward also scored four goals in Leipzig’s run to the Europa League semi-finals
There may be question marks over his ability to lead the line for an elite team but he has more than earned his chance to answer them.
Others may point to a lack of physicality as a reason why the Premier League might not be a good fit, yet some of the league’s top stars – such as Mohamed Salah, Kevin De Bruyne and Son Heung-min – are hardly renowned for their physical presence.
He would also bring a direct style of play and is no doubt desperate to show his worth at the very top level ahead of the winter World Cup.
What is his current situation?
Nkunku signed a five-year deal worth around £30,000 a week when he swapped Paris for Leipzig and is under contract with the German club until 2024.
Leipzig are believed to value him at between £50-60m, not quite a drop in the ocean for some teams in the cash-rich Premier League but certainly affordable.
The German side are, unsurprisingly, keen on retaining him but will be wary of his personal ambition to reach the summit of the game for club and country.
They want to challenge the German elite for the Bundesliga title and harbour hopes of reaching the latter stages of the Champions League, so may not be willing to part with their prized asset just yet.
Leipzig are unlikely to let their prized asset go on the cheap in the summer transfer window