Jeremy Doku is fast and he is tricky but that won’t be enough for Manchester City; you would back Pep to eke out more…
Who’s this then?
Jérémy Baffour Doku is a 5′ 8″, 21-year-old Antwerp-born, Belgium winger who has just signed for Manchester City in return for 60 million Euros and is widely regarded as one of the best wingers in world football.
His youth career was played at Tubantia Borgerhout, Beerschot and Anderlecht, before signing pro forms for the latter in 2018. He played 37 games for the club, scoring six times, before getting snapped up by Rennes for 26 million Euros, the most expensive transfer the club had ever made. They saw his potential.
In his short career so far he has missed a fair wedge of games through eight different injuries forcing him to miss out on 50 games, which is basically a full season.
After 92 appearances for Rennes, with 12 goals and 10 assists, City identified him as a target, peeled 60 million Euro notes off a wad of cash thick enough to choke a donkey and took him to Manchester on a five-year deal.
He’s played international football since 2020, now with 14 caps with a couple of strikes to his name.
Why the love?
Wooo, he’s fast, fast, fast, baby. Better than that, he is exceptionally quick off the mark. This is 0-60 mph in three second territory. He’s got that low centre of gravity thing going on which makes it look like he can never be knocked off the ball and there’s plenty of meat on the Doku bone too. Fast players are fine, but it is the acceleration that gets you ahead of the defence. As an attacking player, you’re better having a fast burst of pace, rather than being able to cruise the length of the pitch at a high tempo.
And he’s especially effective in one-on-ones, where basically he’s going to back himself to take on almost anyone except Kyle Walker and he doesn’t have to take on Kyle Walker for obvious reasons. He had the third best dribbling average per game in the Ligue 1 in 2021, after Neymar and Marco Verratti and he was in the top three in all European league competitions for total dribbles in 2023, along with Vinícius Júnior and Lionel Messi. Clearly he’s not afraid to take a player on.
If you think this is great but hey it’s only Ligue 1, which is probably the weakest out of the major European leagues, then that’s a doubt that City must have accounted for. Of course, playing for City is entirely different to Rennes; he’s playing with better players who can convert more of the chances that he can create and who can create more chances for himself.
But this is why he’s a 60 million Euro 21-year-old, not a 100 million Euro player. He’s got some way to go to fulfil his potential, but what potential it is. Thierry Henry is a big fan saying he’s never seen such a fast dribbler. Roberto Martinez thinks he’s special and so does Samir Nasri. Kylian Mbappe has said “in five years as a professional, I have never seen someone demonstrate so much power from a standing start”.
You don’t need to be a football visionary to see him burning up the right wing for Erling Haaland to score. He’s also pretty two-footed so if they want him to play on the left as well, that’ll be no problem. Why isn’t every top-rank player at least decent with both feet?
But all of this is still potential.
Three great moments
Yep, that looks like a 60 million Euro player.
Close control ahoy
He’s not short of confidence, at one point saying he was the best dribbler in Ligue 1 and carrying the ‘arrogant’ tag since his youth days. Obviously some see arrogance negatively as having yerself, others see it as a positive, reflecting self-confidence. The difference between those polars is can you deliver? And Pep has bought him to deliver and if he doesn’t, no amount of self-belief will get him in the side.
And for all his pace and dribbling ability – an ability which saw Jurgen Klopp try to recruit him in 2017 – some have pointed out he often lacks an end product. His numbers are OK – 18 goals and 18 assists in 133 appearances – but aren’t prolific. In some ways those numbers are in opposition to how he looks on the pitch. This is a player who you notice, despite playing out wide, usually on the right (though he’s done well on the left too).
Guardiola is a past master at stripping out all the bollocks from someone’s game and getting down to the prime Grade A meat. And it does look like Doku needs to be guided in how to get the most out of his game. If he doesn’t produce an end product once he’s beaten his man, Pep will go absolutely ballistic at him in the hysterically insane way only Pep can muster.
But you’d think his speed will work well for the increasingly longer game City are playing. As soon as they gain possession in their defensive third, Doku will likely be on his proverbial bike.
However, the major doubt about the player is his injury history. Can he stay fit for a full season? Guardiola will doubtless manage him to give him the best chance, in the same way he manages Haaland, but having missed those 50 games is worrying. He’s pulled three hammys, two knee knacks, a deed leg, a calf twang and a muscle ouch. The hamstring injuries must be worrying for a player with explosive pace. They’ve kept him out for 80 days in total. For a 21-year-old that must be a concern.
Speed merchants always tend to be fan favourites. They just look so good from the stands. It’s easy to imagine Goku being a huge success. But, interestingly, it’s not hard to see him flop either. That’s what makes him such an interesting signing.