Could a Gambian Star Be Liverpool’s Next Sensation?

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Yankuba Minteh on Liverpool’s radar

It is no secret that Liverpool are on the search for an attacking player this summer. One surprise candidate who has emerged on the club’s radar according to The Telegraph, is Yankuba Minteh.

The Gambian international is contracted to Newcastle United, and spent last season on loan at Arne Slot’s Feyenoord.

The report claims Newcastle are open to reluctantly selling the talented winger and Liverpool are thought to have an interest in the winger.

On the surface this may seem like simply lazy journalism with Minteh having worked under Liverpool’s new head-coach. However, below the surface this is a move that may actually makes sense for Liverpool and could be a masterstroke from Edwards.

Photo: IMAGO

Who is Yankuba Minteh

Minteh may be one of the most exciting young talents to have emerged from The Gambia over the last few decades.

He came through the ranks at Steve Biko FC, which is where a number of top talents have also made their mark recently, including Adama Bojang at Reims.

He was spotted at Steve Biko FC by Odense in Denmark and impressed on trial. Initially, he was brought to the club’s U19 side, but after two goals in two games he was immediately promoted to the first team.

Impressively, in his first seven first team appearances, Minteh scored twice and registered three assists – which ultimately caught the attention of Newcastle United, who signed him before loaning him out to Feyenoord last season.

Last season, Minteh became the youngest ever Gambian to score in the Champions League.

At 19 years old, he has established himself as a regular player for his country, and really caught the eye in the Eredivisie last season as well.

Why Liverpool want Minteh

Minteh scored 10 goals and registered six assists under Arne Slot in 27 Eredivisie appearances last season.

Those are solid numbers, especially when you take into account how he was not a regular starter when he first came to Slot’s side. Initially, it took him a while to really get going and acclimatise to making the step up from the Danish Superliga.

But when he really did get going he was very impressive for Slot’s side. In his last 11 league appearances, he scored seven goals and registered three assists.

Liverpool will like Minteh because he fits into the profile Michael Edwards has previously targeted for the Reds’ attack.

Minteh has a high output and a high xG (0.61 per 90) while also averaging high creative numbers at 0.27 xA per 90. As a baseline, the fact that he is producing these kind of numbers will have flagged him up as a potential candidate on Liverpool’s database. Edwards likes attackers whose output is high, and there are few wingers out there in European football with the output of Minteh.

Why Minteh ticks a lot of boxes for Liverpool

Of course, Liverpool will not pursue a player based on output alone. There is more than one criteria that a prospective target has to meet.

We know from the past, Edwards has also prioritised speed and directness when it comes to forward players.

Minteh has this in abundance. Last season in the Eredivisie, he ranked second for top speed (34.45km/h) and was ranked in the top five attackers for highest sprint distance (74.49m).

He’s really effective on the ball as well. Last season, Minteh averaged the most progressive runs in the league (6.49 per 90) as per Wyscout. He also ranks in third place for dribbles attempted (9.62 per 90) and has a decent completion rate at 56.21%.

Predominantly left-footed, Arne Slot has used him on the right-wing, where Minteh has bombed up and down for Feyenoord all season. Towards the end of the campaign, he became virtually unstoppable in full flow.

With his ability on the ball to succeed in one vs one challenges and progress into danger areas of the pitch combined with his speed – Minteh is very much producing similar numbers to someone like Sadio Mane in his prime. The fact that he has the output to back up his running and dribbling numbers explains why Edwards and his data team may be open to exploring a move.

Off the ball work

Of course, something that will also be taken into account for forwards is off the ball work. Jurgen Klopp’s style of play was very much focused on defending from the front. That required his attackers to press the opposition high up the pitch and this won’t be changing under Slot.

Slot plays with a similar intensity and actually showed clips of Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund to demonstrate how he wanted his team to press during the early years of his managerial career as recounted to me by one former player.

Having played in that system under Slot, Minteh has definitely proved himself capable of being a pressing machine. Last season, only two wingers averaged more defensive duels than Minteh (6.89 per 90) in the Eredivisie.

As you can see in the heatmap below, he covers a lot of ground in the opposition’s defensive third of the pitch. Minteh is very effective at closing down his opponents and impressively succeeded in 64.46% of his defensive duels – the second highest out of wingers who averaged at least 3.5 defensive duels per 90 in the Eredivisie. He also ranks in the 99th percentile for tackles in the final third as per FBref.

Worth the punt?

Based on the numbers alone, Minteh would be an ideal signing for Liverpool. If he wasn’t contracted to Newcastle United, the Reds would have probably already moved for him.

Newcastle have seemingly opened the door for a potential move as per the report stated in the article. However, that report also claims they would be looking to accept a £40m figure for Minteh.

Even in this inflated market that seems a little high for Minteh. He’s shown exciting potential but a figure in the region of £30m would be a much fairer price for a player who wasn’t even a regular starter until the turn of the year in Arne Slot’s side.

Edwards is the master of negotiation and if he can barter Newcastle down to something around that figure, then bringing Minteh as another option for Liverpool’s attack and to potentially become an understudy to Mohamed Salah would absolutely make sense.

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