Manchester United have been linked with a move to sign Jeremie Frimpong this summer, with the right-back turning heads with his performances for Bayer Leverkusen.
Frimpong has exploded this season with a fine campaign for Leverkusen, one which has seen the 22-year-old emerge as one of the most productive full-backs in European football.
With Erik ten Hag in search of a right-back who can contribute high quality at both ends of the pitch, Frimpong has emerged as a potential transfer target for the Manchester United recruitment team.
We delve into the reasons why…
Frimpong is well-versed in Mancunian life, having spent the formative years of his development in the academy system of Manchester City. The defender was born in Amsterdam before being inducted into City’s set-up at the age of nine, where he featured alongside names such as Eric Garcia and Tosin Adarabioyo in the Premier League 2 and UEFA Youth League.
Unable to break through into the senior side, Frimpong completed a £300,000 move to Celtic in 2019 and his career truly began to take off.
He made 21 appearances in all competitions as Celtic won a Scottish Premiership, Scottish Cup and Scottish League Cup treble during the 2019/20 season and was voted as Celtic’s Young Player of the Year by the club’s supporters.
Six months after that treble triumph and with a regular run of football behind him in Scotland, Frimpong was on the move once again. Bayer Leverkusen expressed interest in signing the Dutchman during the 2021 January transfer window and the defender departed for a new challenge.
Neil Lennon described the £11.5m bid as “really robust offer” for a player who had “made it clear he wanted to leave”, with Frimpong signing for Leverkusen after 51 appearances in all competitions for Celtic.
Frimpong made just four league starts across his first six months in the Bundesliga, as the defender adjusted to the demands of a new division. A regular run in the side followed during the 2021/22 campaign, a season which saw Frimpong earn inclusion in the Bundesliga Team of the Year.
He made 25 league appearances, scoring once and providing six assists, as Leverkusen ended the season third to secure Champions League qualification. He was one of just two Leverkusen players, alongside Patrik Schick, selected in the divisional Team of the Year.
A promising first full season has been followed with an explosive second, one which has catapulted Frimpong into the consciousness of Europe’s top clubs.
Despite Leverkusen enduring a disastrous start to the season under former manager Gerardo Seoane, Frimpong has excelled since the appointment of Xabi Alonso and has been a key figure in the club’s upturn in results and climb up the Bundesliga table.
Frimpong has scored eight goals and laid on a further nine assists in all competitions in 2022/23, including seven goal contributions in his last eight appearances.
His performances earned Frimpong inclusion in the Netherlands squad for the 2022 World Cup, though he did not feature at the tournament and is yet to make his full debut for the Oranje.
What would he bring to Manchester United?
Erik ten Hag remains unconvinced by Manchester United’s current right-back options, despite signs of improvement from both Diogo Dalot and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Each offer different value, with Dalot considered the more natural attacking option and Wan-Bissaka a defensive specialist who thrives in one-against-one duels.
In terms of attacking output this season, Frimpong dwarves the duo. He has eight goals and six assists in the Bundesliga alone, with Dalot and Wan-Bissaka goalless and having recorded just three Premier League assists between them.
Jeremie Frimpong, keen on Manchester United possible move — not advanced yet as his agent met with #MUFC, FC Bayern and Barcelona. 🇳🇱
Interest in Frimpong doesn’t change the situation of Diogo Dalot at this stage as new long-term contract talks are still ongoing. pic.twitter.com/ljyRLn3Q7y
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) April 10, 2023
It’s not just in tangible attacking numbers that Frimpong has bettered Dalot, United’s regular right-back, in this season. He has outperformed Dalot for duels won (6.6 – 5.0), ground duels won (6.2 – 3.3) and fouls won (2.0 – 0.1), while he has failed to make a single error leading to a shot on goal.
Defensively, there are areas for improvement and a return of 0.5 aerials won per game indicate a weakness in the diminutive Dutchman’s game. His cavalier approach also means positionally he can be exposed in transitions, though excellent recovery pace helps to combat this on occasion.
A centre-back comfortable in moving wide to defend the space Frimpong vacates could be essential to bringing the best from the full-back, whose output offensively appears more reward than risk
United have been linked with signing Jurrien Timber from Ajax, a defender who possesses the athleticism and awareness to perform a hybrid centre-back/right-back role as Frimpong roves forward.
A game-changer from right-back
The real strength in Frimpong’s game comes with the ball at his feet, with the Dutchman an elite dribbler in possession. His electric pace, nimble footwork and low centre of gravity have been a feature of his emergence and the numbers back up what has been an impressive passing of the eye test.
Just three players in Europe’s top five leagues – Vinicius Junior, Lionel Messi and Alphonso Davies – have completed more dribbles than the right-back this season, with his underlapping and overlapping runs forward a feature of Leverkusen’s football in recent months.
Huge win for us! Focus on the @EuropaLeague now 🔜 pic.twitter.com/c3XtAhU36K
— Jeremie Frimpong (@JeremieFrimpong) April 8, 2023
He has developed an encouraging understanding with Moussa Diaby down the flank, a relationship that could be replicated with Anthony at Old Trafford. Like the Brazilian, Diaby is left-footed and Frimpong often bursts forward on the underlap when the winger holds width, or provides an alternative option on the outside when Diaby drifts infield.
This season, Frimpong ranks among the 99th percentile of full-backs in Europe’s big five leagues for progressive carries, successful dribbles, touches in the attacking penalty area and non-penalty goals, while he is in the 89th+ percentile for shots, assists and progressive passes received.
How does he compare to the Premier League’s best?
Frimpong’s eight league goals this season are comfortably higher than any defender in the Premier League, a figure level with forward names that include Alexander Isak, Darwin Nunez and Leandro Trossard.
It’s also more than the highest totals that Trent Alexander-Arnold (4), Reece James (5) and Kieran Trippier (2) have scored in a single season during their league careers to date.
🚨🇳🇱 Manchester United target Jeremie Frimpong loves Manchester, where he arrived from Amsterdam with his parents when he was seven years old. [@BILD] #MUFC pic.twitter.com/gsk0dRyBtN
— United Update (@UnitedsUpdate) April 9, 2023
Frimpong’s six assists are also level with the most productive full-backs in the Premier League during the current campaign, Tottenham’s Ivan Perisic, Liverpool’s Andy Robertson and Newcastle’s Trippier.
Given each of those names has a share of set-piece duties, it emphasises the creativity Frimpong possesses in open-play. His speed and intelligence in the final third is able to open up games and provide a consistent source of chances to the front line.
It is little surprise that Manchester United are interested given the emphasis on production from full-back in the modern game. No defender in Europe’s leading league has been involved in more goals than Frimpong this season, while he leads the German first division for sprints (869) and has been clocked as the Bundesliga’s fifth-fastest player this season.
Sky Germany are reporting Leverkusen will demand a fee in excess of €40m, while the Germans have already prepared for Frimpong’s potential exit with the capture of newly-capped Brazil international Arthur from Club America.
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