According to reports in Germany, Manchester United could submit a bid for Eintracht Frankfurt striker Randal Kolo Muani this summer as Erik ten Hag looks to bolster his attacking weaponry for next season.
The French superstar has undergone a remarkable breakthrough campaign registering 13 goals and 10 assists in all competitions, propelling him to become one of Europe’s most sought-after attacking talents.
Kolo Muani has reportedly changed his agent representation which could open the door to a potential blockbuster move away this summer, after his former agents stated he would remain at the German outfit until 2024. The player has since changed representation to the same agents as his French counterpart and international teammate Ousmane Dembele, who are known to have plenty of contact with elite European clubs.
With Manchester United on the prowl for an elite-level striker this summer following the release of club legend Cristiano Ronaldo in December and the frustrating injury troubles to Anthony Martial, Randal Kolo Muani is sure to be one of the prestigious names on Ten Hag’s summer wishlist.
So who is Randal Kolo-Muani?
Born in Bondy, Seine-Saint-Denis, and of Congolese descent, a young Kolo Muani started out his footballing trade in Paris playing for the likes of Villepinte, Trembley and Torcy and then training with Italian sides Vicenza and Cremonese.
In 2015, the player then moved to the Nantes academy to further his trade and it wasn’t until 2017 that he was introduced into the first team picture in a match against French giants Marseille. The following year, the summer of 2018, he signed his first professional contract at the club. He made his professional debut in a 3-0 defeat to Saint-Etienne in the month of November, and his first professional start for Nantes wasn’t until January 2019 – a 1-0 loss to Angers SCO.
He was then loaned out to Boulogne on a season-long loan deal in the third division of French football. It was there he became one of the best players in the whole division, contributing three goals and five assists to help the club finish 3rd, though the season was curtailed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He returned to his parent club Nantes for the 2020/21 campaign bagging his first senior goal for the club in a 3-1 win over Brest in Ligue 1. He ended that campaign with a fruitful and productive nine goals and nine assists, although the club finished in 17th place in the table where they met Toulouse in the playoffs. The huge importance of that match did not faze him one bit, as he bagged a goal within both legs, helping Nantes to avoid relegation from the French top flight.
The following campaign was even more impressive, again showcasing his tremendous productivity in front of goal and in the final third. Kolo Muani bagged 12 goals and laid on five assists from 37 games, also aiding the club in their historic Coupe de France 2022 triumph over OGC Nice.
That was the end of his sensational breakthrough in France and he immediately sprung onto bigger and better things, joining Eintracht Frankfurt in March 2022 on a pre-contractual agreement after his contract at Nantes came to an end, signing a five-year deal with the eventual Europa League champions. Just under a year on, and the rest is absolute history where Muani has become one of the best players in the Bundesliga and one of the most exciting strikers on the continent.
At the time of writing, he’s managed nine goals and 10 assists from 19 Bundesliga games and is already a fully-fledged French international having made his international bow last September against Austria in the UEFA Nations League. A few months on, he was unexpectedly thrown into the deep end replacing the injured Christopher Nkunku for Didier Deschamps’ World Cup squad in Qatar – a richly deserved call-up, even if it was at the expense of Nkunku’s injury.
The forward certainly made sure he wasn’t there to just make up the numbers too, bagging his first international goal against Morocco, slotting in a deflected Kylian Mbappe shot – becoming the third fastest player to score a goal as a substitute in a World Cup, after just 44 seconds. However, his first World Cup campaign will, unfortunately, be marred by his crucial miss against Argentina in the final in extra-time, failing to covert a one-on-one with Emiliano Martinez.
What is Kolo Muani’s style of play? What will he bring to Old Trafford?
Fasten your seat belts… Eintracht Frankfurt has indeed been home to some of Europe’s best and most coveted no.9s in the past five years or so. Sebastien Haller, Andre Silva and Luka Jovic are three of the most notable names.
But what is impressive about the club’s recruitment is that those three profiles possess differing characteristics and abilities, yet they all thrived within a particular tactical style and system which says much about the club as a whole providing some of Europe’s best platform and particular conditions to thrive but also the opportunity and freedom to test themselves elsewhere once a bigger team comes calling.
And that trend is certainly about to continue in Kolo Muani. But there is a case to argue that he is the best of the lot, and one with the higher ceiling to test himself at the utmost elite level.
The 24-year-old is extremely unique from those aforementioned profiles. He’s arguably the more complete footballer, not just possessing the abilities to score goals and work as the side’s main frontman. Certainly not, his game runs much deeper than that. While much of their creativity and threat from the wide areas have left in Filip Kostic, Frankfurt have managed to replace that tremendously well, and much of that is down to Kolo Muani.
After winning the Europa League last season, Frankfurt needed to reclaim their attacking potency – playing free-flowing, high-intensity and positional football as seen in the days of Adi Hütter, but more crucially back to playing two strikers capable of working in tandem to both create and score goals. Instead, former Wolfsburg manager Oliver Glasner has evolved that idea, now deploying an organised, free-flowing, positionally excellent and fluid 3-4-2-1 system.
This is a system in which Kolo Muani has exerted himself to become both a goalscorer and a devastating creative force, transcending Hütter’s two-man strike pairing idea. First and foremost, Kolo Muani is exceptionally explosive, dynamic, skillful and deceptively quick. When you first lay eyes on him, you’d immediately come to the honest conclusion that he used to be a traditional winger in his younger days. He’s incredibly pacey, rangy and unstoppable in 1v1 situations up against defenders.
Amongst forwards in Europe’s top five leagues, he ranks in the top 7% of players for progressive carries per 90, top 4% for successful carries, and in the top 2% for carries into the penalty area per 90. He is remarkably effective and dangerous when carrying the ball out wide or through the middle, extremely penetrative allowing Frankfurt the opportunity to create chances at will. He ranks in the top 7% of forwards again for goal-creating actions through carries, meaning every time he carries the ball it leads to a goalscoring opportunity.
As the lone frontman in Glasner’s system, he is tasked with the responsibility of stretching the opposition defence, at times roaming out wide creating space for the likes of Jesper Lindstrom, Daichi Kamada and Mario Gotze to exploit in the final third, and Kolo Muani is hugely effective in fulfilling that responsibility.
Put him up top or out wide, it doesn’t matter to him, he’d find ways to be effective and influential. But as a player who innately sees the picture unfolding ahead of him on the pitch, Muani could even play as a ’10’ but as we’ve come to know this role in the modern game, he’s that of a half-9 or a false-9, call it what you want.
When we say Kolo Muani is creative, that he is. He ain’t no Lionel Messi or Kevin De Bruyne-type creativity, splitting defences at will with unerring passing and movement.
In all fairness, he rarely passes the ball, but when he does it is incredibly intelligent, at the right time laid on a plate for his teammates. 10 assists at this point of the season is simply insane numbers. His underlying creative numbers are superb too. Amongst forwards in Europe’s top five leagues, he ranks in the top 83rd percentile for shot-creating actions per 90, in the 85th percentile for key passes per 90 and in the 97th percentile for goal-creating actions per 90.
He’s unselfish in front of goal, and will actively pass the ball across the eighteen rather than finishing off a chance himself like he’s on some hell-bent quest to break Frankfurt’s assist record. Filip Kostic holds the club’s all-time assists record of 44 which may be some way to go before Kolo Muani can break that but he ain’t too far from Kamada’s record of 23.
As a false-nine, they are expected to drop deep and link the play whilst also creating space for his attacking teammates to burst into. One of the finest at it over the past few years, if you need any examples, is Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino. In the modern game, we are seeing more and more of them. Manchester United certainly possess one in Martial but his injury record stops him from becoming one of the most elite, and that is certainly why the Red Devils is looking at Kolo Muani.
He frequently drops deep during any phase of play, but particularly in seeking space away from a defensive high-line and picking up progressive passes from either his midfield players or defenders. As stated previously, Kolo Muani is effective in dropping deep because tremendous ball skills and technique. The Frenchman is a joy to watch when wriggling out of tight spaces, using his sheer frame, strength and speed along with his silky ball technique to evade pressure.
He doesn’t occupy defenders like the big burly like that of Haller or Jovic who came before him, but he still attracts the right amount of attention to allow others to succeed. He’s superbly unpredictable, defenders are always inclined to give him room because of hos dangerous he is if he gets past them. For defenders who are brave enough to get tight to him, they are destined for trouble. Muani has successfully completed 46% of his dribbles this season telling you all you need to know of his dribbling qualities.
But his efforts in the final third are very stark. When he receives a pass, he’s smart knowing when to play forwards or backward, and possesses excellent vision and awareness of the right pass to make in the right moment. Like we’ve said before, 10 assists at this stage of the season is nothing short of sensational, but it’s a record Kolo Muani has gradually built over time.
To be an effective false-nine, it’s not only in attack when you’re supposed to do your best work, but off the ball too. The player had big shoes to fill in that coming in place of Rafael Santos Borré. Few forwards in Europe’s top five leagues excelled in their pressing and tackling as much as Borré, and Muani needed to keep up that reputation when he joined. He certainly has – intelligent in his pressing and is always backed up by a group that follows his lead when he triggers it.
Not only is he intelligent with his pressing, but he’s also incredibly energetic. And that is what Erik ten Hag will be mightily impressed by. Strikers in the modern game – in high-intensity pressing sides – have to set the off-the-ball tempo for everyone else, if they aren’t, things fall to pieces. It’s why Ten Hag was hell-bent on adding one of last season’s most efficient pressers in Wout Weghorst, even if he doesn’t set the world alight in front of goal.
Kolo Muani is always positive in his approach to win the ball, is excellent at forcing play backwards, where he will only continue his intensity all the way back. He’s quick to react to loose balls and poor touches from defenders, effortlessly forcing players into mistakes at crucial moments.
Most of all, the former Nantes man is supremely decorated in front of goal. He’ll always gather goalscoring opportunities because of his superb movement, off-the-ball pressing, or as a result of his dribbling. Many of his goals this season have derived from all those instances, but what’s pivotal is that he’s devastating when it comes to it, showcasing different shot variations whether through the centre of the box or when at an angle.
All in all, the striker has 14 goals and 12 assists in all competitions which is simply astonishing. The way he’s shot to prominence in such a short space of time is incredibly admirable and highlights a player certainly ready to take that next level.
Whether that’s at Manchester United, is uncertain but the Red Devils would do incredibly well to acquire his services if they can’t secure either of Victor Osimhen or Harry Kane – their reported top striker targets. Kolo Muani certainly shouldn’t be considered an alternative or a last resort, he’s simply too good for that. He can even be considered an upgrade on Martial whose injury record is frustrating those around Old Trafford. Despite all that, the player will need to pick his next club wisely, joining a club that will be hell-bent on helping him aid and mature his game even further.
There are still some raw attributes in his game, areas which may need more elite coaching but already, he is turning into the complete hybrid forward. The question is, can he reach the elite level at his next club?