Nordi Mukiele: Likely to leave Leipzig but when?

When you think of RB Leipzig most people default to their more attacking talents with any defensive credit awarded to the likes of Dayot Upamecano. That’s not the case with football scouts though and versatile right back Nordi Mukiele is landing on the radar of some of Europe’s biggest clubs. Here we look at his career to date and assess just how good he actually is.

Who is Nordi Mukiele?

Mukiele’s parents are both of Congolese descent but he grew up on the outskirts of France’s capital where he was with the Paris FC youth team. In 2013 a 16-year-old Mukiele moved to Laval, who are based between Rennes and Le Mans in western France, to improve his chances of moving into the professional game. He spent his first 12 months with the under 17s before moving into the under 19 setup. He then quickly went on to hold down a place in the clubs B side.

Mukiele was making an impression on the coaching staff and he made his professional debut playing the full 90 minutes in a 1-1 draw with Auxerre. It proved his only real action in Ligue 2. His only other appearance coming as an 89th minute sub. His reputation hadn’t gone unnoticed within the youth coaches at international level though with Ludovic Batelli handing him an under 18 debut in May 2015.

Making his mark

The following season saw Mukiele feature more regularly albeit after a slow start to the campaign. During the first nine matches, he hadn’t featured in a squad let alone got onto the pitch but a run of four games without a win saw Mukiele start at centre half against US Creteil in early October. He impressed throughout the 3-2 win and remained in the squad and getting plenty of minutes until the seasons end – the exception being a few game weeks where he was with the France under 19 and 20s respectively. In addition to stepping up through the international youth system, Mukiele made a total of 17 appearances and grabbed two goals as Stade Lavallois finished mid-table.

The 2016/17 season saw Mukiele become a key part of the side. His game time was predominantly coming at right back. He didn’t miss a minute of the opening 19 matches and, although the team had only managed a pretty woeful three league wins, the player himself was gaining a decent reputation. As the half way mark neared, rumours gathered pace that Mukiele might be subject of interest from bigger clubs and that was that. Mukiele was moving on.

Stepping into the big five leagues

In the second half of the season Mukiele would be afforded the opportunity to ply his trade in Ligue 1. Montpellier paid £1.4m to land their man. He immediately found himself in the first team picture but was given quite the baptism as fire with his first point in navy blue not coming until the fourth attempt with Marseille – and Remy Cabella and Bafetimbi Gomis in particular – giving the entire Montpellier backline somewhat of a lesson in a 5-1 humbling. Mukiele was dropped to the bench for the next match but came back strong after that and nailed down his position in the team. A credit to his mental strength at just 19.

It was more of the same in 2017/18 with Mukiele an almost constant in the defence, which would switch between a three or four man set up from game to game. The defence was solid as a whole with the team conceding just 33 goals, which was second only to PSG who ran away with the title. Mukiele was certainly deserving of credit for his part in the defensive unit though and his performances attracted RB Leipzig. They shelled out £14.4m to bring him to Germany.

Life in Germany

His debut in Leipzig colours came in the Europa qualifying rounds, which gave Mukiele his first taste of European level football. A group stage elimination brought things to a premature end but 19 Bundesliga appearances – predominantly at right back – saw him endear himself to the Leipzig fans as he helped them to Champions League qualification through a third place finish; a spot they clinched thanks to the meanest defence in the division. 

The latest season has been a similar story. Mukiele hasn’t been an ever present in the side but he’s featured in each of their nine Champions League matches as they’ve reached the semi-finals. On the domestic front, he’s made 25 appearances and contributed three goals and three assists. Again, most of his time has been spent in a full back role but he has been utilised further forward on occasion. 

Style of play

Mukiele excels in the defensive phase of the game, which is rare for a young full back in the modern game. He’s quick, aggressive and likes to play on the front foot. Aerially, he’s dominant with a 73.8% win rate from 107 duels. He’s pretty brutal in the tackle too having been dribbled past just 16 times meaning he has a success rate of 83.5%. He also racks up his fair share of blocks and interceptions too with an average of 3.5 per 90 minutes whilst his clearance rate is 2.9 for every 90 minutes.

It’s not all about defending though and a pass completion of over 78% is respectable – if not amazing – and his desire to carry the ball forwards, particularly in the opponents half where he uses his power to drive at defenders is a useful asset. All that said, his end product could do with some work as only 20% of his crosses find their desired target.

On a PB front, Mukiele produced an average score of 104 during the 2019/20 campaign with several scores breaking the 200 mark. His peak score was 269. Although he didn’t do enough to scoop a win, he certainly has produced high enough numbers that could return some dividends. In fact, he has previously won the top defender award – just not for a while.

What does the future hold for Nordi Mukiele?

There have been a whole host of clubs linked with moves for Mukiele. Earlier in the year PSG, Atletico Madrid and Tottenham were linked but some of those rumours have quietened down. More recently, Liverpool and Bayern Munich have been mentioned as possible next moves.

A move to Liverpool looks unlikely given the strength of their defensive options.  Bayern and Spurs are both on the lookout for right backs though with the duo both having been linked to US international Sergino Dest and Norwich man Max Aarons amongst several others. 

Leipzig have a fair bit of depth at the back but in spite of that they’re not looking to sell Mukiele. He still has three years left on his deal and therefore any suitors will need to fork out north of £20m before they can speak to him. With the rapid turnaround between seasons, it’s feasible that Mukiele will have another year at Leipzig. He is only 22 though so, as a long term hold, he could prove a sound addition to your portfolio at just £1.10.

So, Nordi Mukiele, what do you think traders?

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