Newcastle are in advanced talks over a deal to sign 19-year-old Reims forward Hugo Ekitike for just under £30m in what stands to be a huge statement of intent from the Magpies this month.
Ekitike has quickly emerged in recent months as one of the brightest young talents in Europe and Newcastle are working hard on tying up a deal as soon as possible, particularly in light of Callum Wilson’s injury absence.
Here’s are six key things you need to know about the player…
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.
Only 10 of those outings have been as a starter and his tally includes a brace in a 20-minute game-changing cameo off the bench during a Reims win over Nantes in September.
The nature of Ekitike’s rapid rise to prominence at a young age has drawn unsurprising comparisons with Kylian Mbappe, who first lit up Ligue 1 with Monaco prior to joining Paris Saint-Germain in 2017.
But not only has Ekitike been compared to Mbappe by others, he aspires to be like him on the pitch and considers him a role model off it.
“Over the last few years, he is the player I watch the most, who inspires me, and not necessarily only on the pitch,” the youngster told Foot Mercato recently. “That’s what it means to be a top-level player and that’s what I aspire to become.”
As a direct comparison, Mbappe’s first full season in Ligue 1 yielded 15 goals in a title-winning Monaco side. In half a season as he prepares to leave, Ekitike has managed just over half of that tally.
Ekitike is a player who appears up for a challenge and will stand up to the be counted. That much was clear in the aforementioned game against Nantes when he came off the bench to score twice in 20 minutes.
A friend 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.”
He won’t shy away from the kind of task that lies ahead at Newcastle.
The Magpies are not only buying long-term potential but also a player for right now who will immediately improve them.
90min has reported that Ekitike feels ready to join them and that his arrival will give the squad fresh impetus.
Even though Ekitike has often lined up as a central striker this season, he still typically drifts over to the left flank in games.
That movement allows him to cut inside and shoot with his stronger right foot, a style made famous in the Premier League and around the world by a certain Thierry Henry, who was similarly tall and rangy at 6 ft 2 tall.
He is not known for blistering pace but can also be deceptively quick for a player of his height when the situation warrants it.
Ekitike was born and raised in Reims, joining his home-town club’s youth ranks at the age of 11. By birth, he is therefore eligible to represent France at international level – and he has done in the Under-20 age bracket.
The player’s family heritage also gives him Cameroon eligibility. But given the aforementioned Mbappe comparisons, the French Football Federation will hardly want to lose him to another nation.
The player’s explosion onto the scene has been so quick that his FIFA 22 rating has not had time to catch up – it stands at just 61 right now.
At the time of the game’s release in autumn, Ekitike only had two Ligue appearances and a short loan at Vejle BK in Denmark under his belt in terms of professional football experience.
Things are now massively different because of his sudden impact and goal record and he must be set for a major winter upgrade sooner or later.