- © DFL
- © DFL

Bayer Leverkusen's Jeremie Frimpong and Alejandro Grimaldo: world-class wingers in disguise


They are matching Bayern Munich duo Leroy Sané and Kingsley Coman for goals and assists in the Bundesliga this season to keep Bayer Leverkusen ahead of the record German champions in the table - Jeremie Frimpong and Alejandro Grimaldo, 'Frimaldo' - are on fire this season.

While Sané and Coman are undoubtedly forwards, Leverkusen's wing-back duo have more than their fair share of defensive duties too. They have managed to keep Xabi Alonso's side tight at the back, with only Bayern boasting a better defensive record, but it is going forward that 'Frimaldo' have had the most impact.

The league's top scorers, Bayern, have found the net on six more occasions than Alonso's team, but Die Werkself have scored six goals more than any other side with their flying wing-back duo with 20 goal involvements between them: Grimaldo has seven goals and four assists, Frimpong has netted four but teed up five.

Watch: Another perfect month for Leverkusen

To put that into context, 'Robbery' - the legendary Bayern duo Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, who won 17 Bundesliga titles between them - never scored as many goals in the opening 12 matches of a German top-flight season. And 'Robbery' cannot match the Leverkusen pairing's tally of goal involvements this early in a season either.

If you need more convincing… in Liverpool's English Premier League-winning campaign of 2019/20, Jürgen Klopp's full-back pairing of Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold scored just seven goals between them the entire season. They did, however, total a massive 27 assists, but 'Frimaldo' are well on course to emulating that impressive feat.

Grimaldo has already scored more league goals this season - his first since his summer arrival from Benfica - than in any other campaign in his career, six of which have come in away matches, and he has had goal involvements in all seven so far.

Watch: Alejandro Grimaldo - a revelation in Xabi Alonso's system

The 28-year-old late bloomer, who deservedly made his senior Spain debut in the November international break more than seven years after the last of his two U21 appearances, had previously never scored more than five league goals in a campaign.

That tally came last season, when he also struck twice in the Champions League and provided five assists in 10 appearances in the competition. With the 11 assists he also tallied in the league for Benfica, it is no wonder he caught Leverkusen's eye, and - by continuing and enhancing that form in his maiden season in Germany - that of Spain coach Luis de la Fuente.

V.l.n.r. Trainer Xabi Alonso freut sich mit Alejandro Grimaldo beide Bayer 04 Leverkusen ueber den Sieg. GER, Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs BK Haecken, Fussball, Europa League, Gruppenphase, 1. Spieltag, Spielzeit 2023/2024, 21.09.2023 DFL REGULATIONS PROHIBIT ANY USE OF PHOTOGRAPHS AS IMAGE SEQUENCES AND/OR QUASI-VIDEO GER, Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs BK Haecken, Fussball, Europa League, Gruppenphase, 1. Spieltag, Spielzeit 2023/2024, 21.09.2023 Leverkusen *** V l n r coach Xabi Alonso is happy with Alejandro Grimaldo both Bayer 04 Leverkusen about the victory GER, Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs BK Haecken, Football, Europa League, Group Stage, Matchday 1, Season 2023 2024, 21 09 2023 DFL REGULATES PROHIBIT ANY USE OF PHOTOGRAPHS AS IMAGE SEQUENCES AND OR QUASI VIDEO GER, Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs BK Haecken, Football, Europa League, Group Stage, Matchday 1, Season 2023 2024, 21 09 2023 Leverkusen Copyright: xEibner-Pressefoto/ThomasxThienelx EP_TTL - Xabi Alonso (l.) has taken Grimaldo (r.), Frimpong and Leverkusen to another level.

"That is my strong recommendation. It would be fully deserved. He already played well at Benfica, and has the quality for it," said Alonso when asked about Grimaldo getting called up by La Roja following his player's brilliant free-kick strike in the 3-0 Matchday 6 win in Mainz, his second direct set-piece goal following the one that helped earn a draw with Bayern on Matchday 4.

"It wasn't only the free-kick today. He played really well and is very professional. If he keeps on playing like that, then he'll get a call-up to the national team."

If Alonso could already see the future for Grimaldo, Frimpong should be optimisitic about the years ahead, because his coach has full faith in him too. 

"We're totally convinced about Jeremie, and believe that he has a big international future ahead of him," said the Leverkusen boss, whose right wing-back made his senior international debut for the Netherlands in October, having been an unused member of De Oranje's World Cup squad last season. "We want to support him as well as possible on his way." 

Frimpong has repaid that belief in him, ramping up his goal involvements to almost as mind-blowing a level as his jet-heeled pace. The former Manchester City youth academy prospect, 22, averaged a goal involvement every four league matches in his first season-and-a-half at the BayArena following his January 2021 move from Celtic.

He reduced that to a goal or assist every other game last season, before slashing that in half so far this term to around 97 minutes. In comparison, Ribery and Robben weighed in at every 89 and 83 minutes for goal involvements across their Bundesliga career.

Watch: Every Frimpong and Grimaldo goal and assist in the Bundesliga

"I improved every year I think, especially in my end product," said Frimpong. "When I was at Celtic, I was getting up there and I would not finish the actions. That’s one thing I had to improve on my game, because what’s the point if you go all the way up there and you don’t finish it?"

For the moment, both wing-backs have managed to find that ultimate football commodity in the final third: consistency. It has meant that, despite the summer departure of Moussa Diaby - such an integral part of the Leverkusen front line in recent seasons - Alonso has the team firing like never before, and they have now scored at least two goals in each of their 12 league games in 2023/24, something no club in Bundesliga history has ever previously achieved.

Not that Grimaldo is surprised: he had been promised this season would be spectacular when he signed.

"I knew already before the first game that we had a good team. That impression has been confirmed week after week, sometimes in an impressive way. With the other new additions, those responsible at the club have also implemented their promise from my contract talks in May to further strengthen the squad," said the former Barcelona youth academy player, who isn't getting carried away yet.

"Sure, things are going great for us at the moment. But it's still very early in the season. We have to keep working hard and take it one step at a time."