Sam Crocker assesses the Cameroonian forward looking to bring down Brazil and attract a new club this summer...
The 60-second story
After a few years on the periphery of various clubs in Germany, the Hamburg-born Cameroon international is now starting to get people very excited, with the upcoming trip to Brazil touted as the opportunity for him to kickstart the next chapter of his career. Part of a Mainz side that has now become the second team of many Bundesliga followers after an outstanding season, Jean-Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (to give him his full name) has gradually built up to become an integral cog of this exciting machine, who under Thomas Tuchel’s guidance achieved a well-deserved Europa League spot.
Having started life at his hometown club of Hamburg SV, it was several seasons of threatening to break into the first team and a season on loan at Nuremburg before Choupo-Moting sought pastures-new, as up-and-coming side FSV Mainz picked him up on a free.
After years of flitting between the top and second tier, they looked to build a team with a fine blend of young exciting talent and elder statesmen, with Choupo-Moting counted among the former. And after bagging his best return to date of nine goals in one season, he is following his departing manager, much-admired Thomas Tuchel, out of the club this summer when his contract ends. His role for Cameroon at the World Cup is likely to act as the ideal advertisement of what he can do – with several big names already lining him up.
- Date of Birth: 23rd March 1989
- Place of Birth: Hamburg, Germany
- Age: 25
- Height: 6ft 2in
- Position: Striker / Wide forward
- Club: Mainz (74 appearances, 20 goals)
- International record: (26 caps, 12 goals)
Standing at 6ft 2in and often stationed on the left wing, he is not your average head-down-and-get-to-the-byline type of winger, with his long purposeful stride and preference for his right foot making him more of an inside forward. Playing the same role for his national team, people are starting to get excited about the prospect of seeing him link up as part of a front three for the Indomitable Lions, as they look to defy expectations and escape a tough group.
Why you need to know him
As well as being somewhat of a hipster choice for someone to look out for this summer, his no-drama, team-first approach is a breath of fresh air in a football world of narcissistic soap-opera players, and he has the potential to be the bargain of the transfer window if picked up by the right club.
A very good goal return for both club and country, considering the left-sided role he often takes, his three goals in three pre-World Cup friendlies have been getting people very excited, with the game against Germany in the country of his birth where he really came alive. Putting in a diligent shift defensively, he acted as an excellent transition between defence and attack, with his direct dribbling style of great advantage to Cameroon’s counter-attacking, as he grabbed the equaliser to secure a superb result for his country.
Composed finishing and a purposeful and powerful dribbling ability has meant Choupo-Moting has become a very flexible player, comfortable on either flank or through the middle. Having cut out the unnecessary flicks and tricks from his time at Hamburg, his willingness to mature and develop as a player is praiseworthy indeed. His work-rate as well is fantastic, as the game against Germany showed, with a last-ditch tackle on Thomas Muller particularly evidence of this. When discussing his defensive duties after the game, he said that “it is part of the game, and important for the team”, once again highlighting his maturity and happiness to adapt his playing style for the team's benefit, despite a natural preference for the offensive side of things.
The side perhaps lacking from his game is a slight lack of creativity. Choupo-Moting can often look devoid of ideas when facing a side intent on defending, with his frequent intention to cut in from the left side perhaps a bit one-dimensional. A better level of consistency needs to be added to his game as well if he wants to improve.
German-coach of the Cameroon national team, Volker Finke, said after the 2-2 draw with Germany: “you now know how we will play against Mexico”, after their new counter-attacking system proved to be extremely effective. And with Choupo-Moting integral to the functioning of this, he is pretty much guaranteed a start in Brazil.
Did you know
Born to a Cameroonian father and a German mother and born in the country of his mother, Choupo-Moting made his debut for Cameroon four years ago at the age of 21, despite limited game time for Hamburg. In a common example where a player has dual-nationality with Cameroon and a European country, he was clearly earmarked as one for the future early on.
What happens next?
With the likes of Inter Milan, Roma and Schalke supposedly in for him this summer, he will not be short of big-name suitors to continue the ascent of his career once he returns from World Cup duty. But first, he must focus on Brazil. With many now relying on him to produce big performances and contribute to defying Cameroon’s meagre expectations, the transfer situation will have to be put on hold. But the key for after the World Cup is his choice of club. Set sights too low and his career could stagnate; set sights too high and he could end up as someone’s back-up and damage his progression. But he certainly has the potential to be a steal for many clubs out there right now.
Shooting 8 • Heading 6 • Tackling 6 • Pace 7 • Dribbling 8 • Creativity 6 • Work-rate 8 • Positioning 7