The 60-second story
It seems you can’t have a summer transfer window without an exciting winger leaving France for English shores. However, in Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, you will find an old-fashioned wide man with pace to burn and a desire to succeed.
From the suburbs of Paris, released from Paris Saint-Germain’s academy, he picked himself up and was quickly signed by FC Nantes. Following in the footsteps of Dimitri Payet, he would leave the Stade de la Beaujoire and end up at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome to replace the West Ham United star.
Compared to Payet however, Nkoudou offers another dimension. He may not be as technical as the France international, but his speed over short distances is what caught Marseille’s attention, and is the reason he has continued his amazing ascent up the ladder.
Born: February 13, 1995
Place of birth: Versailles, France
Height: 5ft 8 in
Current club: Marseille (28 apps, 5 goals)
International: France U21s (6 caps, 1 goals)
When results and performances were going against Marseille, it was Nkoudou who stood out. He may not have the experience of others – only 62 appearances in Ligue 1 – but his attitude has impressed, with his displays forcing former-Marseille-boss Michel to start the 21-year-old.
Why you need to know him?
Mauricio Pochettino continues to target young, exciting players, talent that can flourish and develop further under his guidance. Nkoudou fits that bill perfectly and with Marseille in a position of financial weakness, Tottenham can pounce on the opportunity to sign the France under-21 international.
With Clinton N’Jie still at the club, perhaps it makes little sense to sign another winger. However, with rumours that the Cameroonian will be sent out on loan, there would be a chance for Nkoudou to earn minutes on the pitch.
At this stage of his career, it’s important that the youngster continues to play, and there’s little chance he is joining Spurs to sit on the bench. Once he earned his first professional contract with Nantes, he quickly became a first-team mainstay.
The same happened at Marseille. Initially signed as an exciting talent with a bright future, his impact from the bench and the positive attitude that he brought to the XI convinced Michel to play him from the start.
Skilful, quick and with a never-say-die attitude, it’s easy to see why Pochettino is interested. As disappointed as many would be to see him leave France at such a tender age, you would certainly back him to make an impact in the Premier League.
Instantly, it’s Nkoudou’s pace that catches the eye. There are similarities between Nkoudou and N’Jie in that respect, but technically you would put the younger winger a step ahead of the former-Lyon forward.
N’Koudou offers that same blistering speed over the first few steps, but he sees situations better, recognises space and generally plays with more intelligence and awareness.
A fine example is his first ever goal in Ligue 1. Playing away at Guingamp for Nantes in just his fourth start for the club, he used the run of Olivier Veigneau to cut inside and unleash an unstoppable right-foot shot into the far corner.
What gives him an edge on the wing and poses a constant threat to defences is his ability with both feet. He can shoot and cross with his left and his right, and he loves to come inside off either.
His size and frightening pace will make him a target for defenders and he will need to adapt to the lack of protection he will receive in English football. However, he’s no shrinking violet himself and loves to get involved in the physical side of the game, although his small frame means he can be overpowered easily by bigger defenders.
Despite being able to score with both feet, his finishing can leave a lot to be desired. He has been known to miss a number of one-on-one chances and can frustrate when it looks harder to miss.
Nkoudou’s pace should allow him more opportunities to get crosses into the box, but his final ball also needs to improve – he only managed three assists last term – but he is still young and under a competent coach, the sky’s the limit.
He may have only spent four years at Les Canaris, but it was definitely at Nantes where the young attacker found his wings. “In the first two or three metres, he has incredible capacity to explode," said Samuel Fenillat, the director of FC Nantes' training centre. "More importantly, he is able to maintain his speed. He can make these high-intensity runs over and over. It is very rare."
Did you know?
Born to the east of Paris in the suburb of Versaille, Nkoudou grew up as a PSG fan, and when the club decided in 2010 that they were going to release him, it nearly signalled the end of his football career.
Due to his small frame and the fact he hadn’t quite developed physically as well as kids his own age, he was about to concentrate on playing futsal. It was only when he spoke to a friend who convinced him that he had the speed and the dribbling skills to make it that he decided to continue. He was soon signed by local club, AC Boulogne-Billancourt.
Nkoudou displays his finishing abilities, but there is still room for improvement.
What happens next?
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If his move to Tottenham is completed, the youngster will have to take another big move in his stride. This time he will move with a large fee on his shoulders, but everything about the young winger gives the impression that he will push that to the back of his mind and concentrate on impressing for Spurs.
Nkoudou has consistently made the step up in quality required and has continued to impress. He never got the chance to link up in Marseille with players like Payet, André Ayew and Giannelli Imbula. Once at Tottenham there is nothing to suggest, with better players around him, that he won’t excel once again and take White Hart Lane by storm.
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