Saxony’s French Connection: RB Leipzig Add Nordi Mukiele

With money burning a hole in their pocket following the €60 million sale of Naby Keita to Liverpool, RB Leipzig have announced the first acquisition of the summer with defender Nordi Mukiele arriving from Ligue 1 side Montpellier bringing another young French talent to the Red Bull Arena.

With the likes of Dayot Upamecano, Ibrahima Konaté and Jean-Kevin Augustin already at the club, the signing of 16 million Mukiele brings the French contingent in Saxony to four.

It has been quite a rise for the 20-year-old when you consider that just eighteen months ago he was playing in the French Ligue 2 with Laval. Having made his debut as a 17-year-old he attracted the attention of Montpellier, who snapped him up for a bargain price of just €1.35 million in January 2017.

Under the renowned defensive coach Michel Der Zakarian, Mukiele’s stellar development at pace as he helped Montpellier become one of the best defensive units in France. The Stade de la Mosson side finished 10th last season, but conceded just 33 goals- second only to champions PSG.

Manchester City and Benfica were reported to be closely monitoring him, so Leipzig’s capture of the highly-rated defender is quite a coup.

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Naturally right-footed, Mukiele excels at right-back, but has also been used as a right-sided central defender by Der Zakarian this season. At 6ft 1 he’s tall, but possesses all the desired attributes of a modern defender. As a full-back, he has the pace, dribbling ability, and ball control to join in high up the pitch as an attacking player, while also having the discipline and tactical awareness not to forget his defensive duties.

His distribution is excellent, whether it’s with short passes into the holding midfielders or spraying longer balls forward with accuracy. He’s got the vision (2.2 average interceptions per 90 mins) to set quick counter-attacks on their way.  Playing centrally, he is strong in the air (3.3 average aerial duels per 90 mins) and aggressive yet clean in the tackle (5 yellow cards).

If there is a weakness, it is his tendency sometime to over-commit himself going forward to challenge leaving holes at the back. In Ligue 1 so far he has used his pace to try to recover these dangerous situations, but it remains an area for the new RB Leipzig trainer (whoever it may be) to work on.

“We’ve been following Nordi for over a year now, so we’re extremely excited to be able to bring in one of Europe’s top defensive talents despite a lot of competition” explained sporting Ralf Rangnick at Mukiele’s unveiling.

“He fits exactly what we’re looking for in a player and in a person. We are certain that Nordi will be able to take the next step with us.”

The player himself was also saying all the right things adding, “I’m really happy that my move to RB Leipzig has worked out. The ambition of the club and its philosophy are perfect for me. I really believe that this club will give me the best opportunity to continue my development.”

Mukiele has been capped by France at U-21 level and has played alongside Jean-Kevin Augustin at U-20 level.

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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