Christopher Nkunku brought more than a dash of French flair to RB Leipzig's 5-0 dismissal of Schalke on Matchday 23, laying on goals for four of his teammates as the Saxony club responded to earlier wins for title rivals Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
After standing back and admiring a superb opener from Marcel Sabitzer – who notched a goal and three assists himself on the opening day of the season, against Union Berlin – Nkunku began to carve Schalke open in the second half, drawing a smart stop from home keeper Alexander Nübel and giving Sabitzer a golden opportunity to complete his brace, only for the Austria international to drag wide.
Undeterred, the former Paris Saint-Germain man slipped through to Timo Werner on the hour mark, and the Germany star took care of the rest, blasting high past Nübel for 2-0. Seven minutes later, the contest was all but settled as Nkunku whipped in a corner which Marcel Halstenberg headed home from close range.
Nkunku wasn't done yet. With around 10 minutes to go, he cantered down the left flank and squared for Angelino, who did brilliantly to skip past Jonjoe Kenny and drill home his first goal for Leipzig since joining on loan from Manchester City in January. The Leipzig No.18 then rounded out a masterful performance by sneaking a pass between two Schalke defenders for Emil Forsberg, who slammed in to complete the 5-0 rout.
It's been over seven years since a player provided four assists in a single Bundesliga outing. The last man to achieve the feat was former Hungary midfielder Szabolcs Huszti, who set up all four of Hannover's goals in a 4-0 win over Wolfsburg in September 2012.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Nkunku's display was that he could easily have teed up another two or three goals. In total he created nine chances, and with some more dead-eyed finishing – such as when they beat Mainz 8-0, a game in which Nkunku already had a goal and two assists – Leipzig might have seen their Gallic string-puller set a new Bundesliga record.
One thing's for sure: a player who was given scant opportunities to develop his talent at PSG is now thriving in the Bundesliga – a fact that may not have escaped the French giants in a week where Neymar and Kylian Mbappe couldn't prevent them going down 2-1 to Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League.
Nkunku is now up to 11 assists for the Bundesliga campaign, and if he continues to shine like he did against Schalke, he could well end up challenging Thomas Müller and Jadon Sancho (both currently on 14) for the Bundesliga's assist crown. With four goals to his name as well, the France U21 winger has had a hand in around 25 per cent of Leipzig's 61 league goals this term.
Watch: The rapid rise of Nkunku at Leipzig
"Christopher can play as a box-to-box midfielder, No.10, winger, striker," Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann said of Nkunku, who has gradually taken over the creator-in-chief mantle from Forsberg. "He's versatile and has real quality in attacking one-on-ones. He also fits perfectly with our transfer DNA as a young player with great potential who can take steps forward, just like us as a club. He's hungry for success and we're glad to have him on board."
As Leipzig head towards the business end of the season, with a big Bundesliga game against Bayer Leverkusen on Matchday 24 and the second leg of their Champions League last-16 clash with Tottenham on the horizon, Nkunku's innovative brand of je ne sais quoi could give Nagelsmann's men the edge they need to taste unprecedented success. Just ask Schalke.
Official Bundesliga transfer centre: Summer 2022
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The Bundesliga Transfer XI of summer 2022
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