Germany’s squad for the U-21 European Championship Finals tournament to be held in Italy this month is packed with Bundesliga stars from top teams as well as a few talented youngsters from the Bundesliga II. There is however a player who stands out a little as he plies his trade in the English second tier and is relatively unheard of in Germany. Let us introduce Lukas Nmecha.
Made in Germany
Lukas Nmecha was born on December 12th 1998 in Hamburg to a German mother and Nigerian father, and after spending his formative years in the Hansastadt, moved to England aged 9.
He was scouted by Manchester City and entered their youth set-up, quickly impressing as a striker and moving through the age groups. He scored 20 goals for the U-18 side that won the Under 18 Premier League title in 2015-16 and in the following year became the FA Youth Cup’s leading scorer after hitting 11 goals including hat-tricks in both legs of their semi-finals against Stoke.
He was soon training with the first team and made his debut as a second half substitute for Gabriel Jesus against West Ham at the end of April 2018. One more cameo appearance followed against Brighton, but last season he was sent out on loan to Championship side Preston North End. Three goals in 14 starts (with 16 further sub appearances) was his tally for the season.
Nmecha began his career as a winger but has morphed into a typical number 9 in his time at Manchester City. He is blessed with lightning pace and excels at playing off the shoulders of defenders. His pace allows him to run past them with ease and he also possesses the ability to play with his back facing goal.
A good dribbler of the ball, the 20-year-old is also an aerial threat, displays good technique and composure in front of goal, and has the potential to become a prolific goalscorer.
Three Way Pull
At international level Nmecha qualified to play for England, Germany and Nigeria. While growing up in England however, he represented the Three Lions at every level from U-16 upwards.
At the 2017 U-19 European Championships, he scored the only goal of the game in the semi-final against the Czech Republic, before scoring the winner in the final against Portugal.
He then moved up to U-21 level, but German coach Stefan Kuntz had not given up hope of persuading the striker to switch allegiance to Germany. In March 2019, Nmecha announced his intention to represent Germany and was included in their U-21 squad for the first time. Fate decreed that he then made his debut against…. yes, you’ve guessed it, England (as a 59th minute substitute during a 2–1 victory).
“I see Germany as my homeland” he explained. “Until I was I nine, I lived in Hamburg and I still have a big connection to the city and the people. I spoke with my mother, she comes from Gladbach.”
German U-21 trainer and Euro 1996 winner Stefan Kuntz is a fan of the youngster. “When someone has been educated from the age of nine at Manchester City and then trains with the first-team, then he is certainly a technically good striker”.
Having pledged allegiance to Germany internationally and with first-team chances at Manchester City hard to come by, could the Bundesliga be an option for Nmecha?
Yes, is the short answer. No strangers to bringing in young English talent, (Keenan Bennetts, Mandela Egbo, Reece Oxford) Borussia Mönchengladbach have been linked with a loan move for the forward.
“I will give my best at the European Championships and when I return to Manchester City I will perhaps be involved in the pre-season, or perhaps I’ll be loaned out again. Maybe I’ll even go to Germany“ he recently told Kicker.
“There is interest from a few clubs in the Bundesliga. That would be great for me, because I speak German and I’d feel at home there. Also I like the football that is payed there.“
Made in Germany, developed in England and now potentially set for a return- not before hopefully helping the U-21 to European glory.
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