Hugo Ekitike is ready for a Chelsea move – just look at this ice-cool finish
France have been blessed with some astonishing strikers in modern times such as Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema and Thierry Henry to name but three.
Crucially, they’ve been very modern strikers; perfect athletic specimens, blessed with pace to match their immense technical quality, and reinventing the role of goalscoring forward for elite sides.
Hugo Ekitike is nowhere near their level just yet. But comparisons to the great French forwards of the past two decades aren’t incredibly far-fetched.
Ekitike has scored an impressive eight goals in 17 Ligue 1 appearances for Reims so far this season, which makes him the top-scoring teenager in any of Europe’s top five leagues.
This has attracted the attention of monied Premier League outfits – Newcastle United, scrabbling about for new players like a Titanic victim grasping for a lifeboat, have reportedly offered £10million for the striker.
European champions Chelsea have, according to a number of sources, made an approach to snap Ekitike up – presumably with the view of sticking him on their loan carousel for an indefinite period.
But perhaps Ekitike is already better than that. A friend of Ekitike told Goal: “He has the mentality of Kobe Bryant in a 19-year-old’s body. If you tell him he’s only got 10 minutes left in a game, he’s not going to hide, but take it as a challenge.”
And his footwork already resembles a tap dancer navigating a minefield. With Reims clinging onto a credible point at Lyon, Ekitike ripped up the script with a cool winner for the away side.
He was first on the scene, like an enterprising police officer, as Anthony Lopes spilt a regulation shot and won the 50:50 challenge that followed.
Jason Denayer lunged into dispossess him but Ekitike sent him sliding into a different postcode with a deft shimmy. Without breaking stride, the striker swept the ball home and wheeled away in satisfaction.
It’s not been confirmed by the club doctors at Reims but it’s been whispered in eastern France that Ekitike has ice running through his veins. Such finishes do nothing to disprove the theory.
Ekitike does not hide his ambition, stating that he is out to replicate Kylian Mbappe as much as possible.
“That’s what it means to be a top-level player and that’s what I aspire to become,” he told Foot Mercato when discussing the PSG star. “Over the last few years, he is the player I watch the most, who inspires me, and not necessarily only on the pitch.”
Ekitike’s tendency to cut inside from the left and curl shots past despairing goalkeepers with his right foot have invited these comparisons.
And his winner against Lyon, which was so cool that it could have been wearing vintage clothes and smoking a roll-up, should excite fans of Chelsea and Newcastle United who are looking for somebody to revitalise their moribund attack.
By Michael Lee