On the 18 December 2022, France and Argentina were in the midst of battling out a World Cup final that will go down for the ages. With Kylian Mbappe having levelled things from the spot two minutes from the end of extra time, a golden chance fell Randal Kolo Muani’s way. A loose clearance was misjudged by the Argentine backline leaving the 24-year-old with just Emi Martinez to beat, Kolo Muani lashed a low drive at the throat of the goal, but Martinez saved and came to Argentina’s rescue again.
The game went to penalties and France succumbed to defeat. This moment stands as the most significant of Kolo Muani’s career so far, but avid viewers of the Bundesliga and Frankfurt and Nantes fans will attest to the fact that Kolo Muani has quietly been going about his business and causing havoc for defences in France and Germany for the past couple of seasons.
Kolo Muani put himself on the world stage at the World Cup with his cameo in the final (where he did indeed dispatch his penalty in the shootout with true conviction), and in the semi-final triumph over Morocco in which he entered play with 11 minutes to go, and sealed the 2-0 victory with practically his first touch – tapping home the ball at the far post.
But who is Randal Kolo Muani?
Randal Kolo Muani’s career kickstarted at Nantes where a record of nearly one in three goals from 62 appearances for the B team, which propelled him into the Ligue 1 side’s first team, aged 20. The 2020/21 season was Kolo Muani’s breakout season as he racked up 40 appearances in all competitions. A very healthy number of contributions with nine goals and eight assists in the league were vital in Nantes beating the drop and staying up via the relegation play-offs. Four goals and three assists in his last four games proved that Kolo Muani could step up under the pressure even in his first season as a regular starter.
The Frenchman maintained a productive output in the following season scoring 13 and laying on five assists, as he began to play off of the RW more – maximising his natural creative attributes. Nantes had a season to remember going from relegation play-offs the season before, to finishing ninth in Ligue 1 and being crowned champions of the Coupe de France for the fourth time in their history. Kolo Muani scored and set up the second in the quarter-final win over Bastia and played the full 90 in the final as Nantes overcame Nice in a cagey 1-0 win in the final.
By this point Kolo Muani had established himself as the jewel in the crown of a Nantes team that was beginning to kick on again and holding its own in the top half of Ligue 1. Eintracht Frankfurt were alert to this and agreed to sign Kolo Muani on a pre-contract in March of 2022, with the Frenchman’s contract at Nantes expiring at the end of the season.
This season Kolo Muani has simply been electric in his first season in Germany, with Frankfurt needing someone to take games by the scruff of their neck as the club compete in the Champions League for the first time in over half a century. Kolo Muani has been menacing throughout this season, with multiple standout performances, scoring in both fixtures against Bayern Munich, adding three goal contributions in one game over the 4-2 win over Hoffenheim and scoring vital goals in UCL wins over Marseille and Sporting CP to ensure Frankfurt’s progression to the knockout rounds of the tournament. 23 goals and assists in just 26 appearances is an output that most of Europe’s elite would fail to match and Kolo Muani is showing no signs of slowing down.
Style of Play
Randal Kolo Muani is modern day forward, dynamic and comfortable playing off both wings as well as leading the line as a classic No. 9. A two footed forward, Kolo Muani can score from a variety of angles on both feet and at 6’1 he is effective in the aerially and is good attacking balls in the air. Off the ball Kolo Muani is excellent at peeling off and finding space in the box, often at the back post.
In possession Kolo Muani has good link up and can play one touch, he also likes cutting in from the left where he displays great close control. Kolo Muani scores on many occasions by shifting the ball and flashing shots quickly but is equally adept at opening his body up and looking for the far corner, he is generally a creative forward with natural instinct and good improvisation – his excellent touch and volley against Sporting CP in the Champions League typifies this. Likewise his assist against high flyers Union Berlin was equally impressive, using raw pace and power to get to the by line before delivering a precise cutback.
A Tall, lengthy forward with a long stride, many defenders may be fooled by Kolo Muani’s awkward looking less conventional build, but when he gets going he is a force to be reckoned with who absolutely excels playing on the counter and running off the shoulder. His build, explosiveness and directness is not dissimilar to AC Milan starboy Rafael Leão.
The Numbers Behind Kolo Muani’s Performance
Unsurprisingly Kolo Muani’s effective link up play is supported by the statistic with the 24-year-old having outperformed his expected goals assisted per 90 of 0.20, by assisting at a rate of 0.36 assists per 90, putting him in the top 4% of assists per 90 for forwards across the past year, according to Statsbomb data. Kolo Muani’s explosive and direct style is also highlighted by the fact he completes 1.9 dribbles per game, these dribbles aren’t wasted with Kolo Muani also averaging close to six touches in the penalty area per 90. Other encouraging performance indicators include the fact Kolo Muani chips in with 0.84 tackles per 90 and wins 1.8 of his aerial duels on average.
Compared to other forwards and wingers Kolo Muani ranks towards the bottom in terms of passes attempted and completed, however this is just a testament to how specialised he is at playing at the counter, and how he only really comes to life when sensing blood and looking to break into the final third, terrorising defenders with his acceleration and the volume of dribbles he attempts.
What does the future hold for Kolo Muani?
Despite not even completing a full season at Eintracht Frankfurt, Kolo Muani does already seem to be outgrowing the team, and his current rate of production simply won’t be going unnoticed by clubs with greater financial pull and who are expecting to compete regularly in the Champions League. Manchester United have been touted with a move to fill their void upfront in the long term, and that is the calibre of side you would expect Kolo Muani to jump next. However, he won’t come cheaply and a blockbuster Champions League tie coming up against Napoli only further puts him in the shop window and drives his price if he performs well again. Frankfurt are also in the thick of the race for European football again this season and will not be looking to part ways with Kolo Muani without a potential record sale akin to that of Luka Jovic back in the summer of 2019, as they also look to further their ambitions on the pitch
Mbappe will obviously be an undoubted mainstay in the French team for many years to come, but with Antoine Griezmann on the wrong side of 30 and both Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud edging closer to the twilight of their careers, there is a real spot up for grabs upfront in French national team, and a spot which at this rate Kolo Muani is doing no harm in staking his claim to seize it for future tournaments to come.
GGFN | Joe Langlands