He has followed in the footsteps of David Beckham, is rated a red-hot prospect by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, and is seen as "a little brother" by Vincent Kompany: no wonder Wolfsburg are excited to have signed Lukas Nmecha.
The cosmopolitan Germany U21 international belongs to Manchester City, but has signed a season-long loan deal with the Bundesliga side — bundesliga.com gives you the lowdown on the forward who could set the German top flight alight next season.
Beckham first, Nmecha next?
Manchester United, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan, Los Angeles Galaxy and Preston North End. Spot the odd one out? Easy, right? No, it's not. It's a trick question, there isn't one. Beckham played professionally for all those clubs, including a short spell at Preston in the 1994/95 season before he became a global household brand.
Nmecha emulated the ex-England captain in moving to Deepdale for the 2018/19 campaign, an experience that proved just as enriching as it did for the world's most famous Spice Boy. "It was great for me," Nmecha said after scoring four times in 41 appearances for the English Championship club. "It was hard to play three times every week, but I learned a lot from that."
Loves a Pep talk
Shortly after he had moved from his birthplace, Hamburg, to northwest England with his Nigerian father and German mother, Nmecha's talent was spotted by City, who quickly signed up the then nine-year-old, and the English Premier League champions have carefully honed that ability since. A Carabao Cup appearance in December 2017 marked his first-team debut for City, and was followed by two brief top-flight outings before he joined the senior squad for their 2018 summer tour of the USA.
Former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss Guardiola is impressed, especially as Nmecha happily allies his natural talent with an awareness that he still has much to learn. "Lukas has great prospects," said Guardiola, who — you'd think — knows a good player when he sees one. "He's hungry, he takes in everything you tell him."
Guardiola is not the only one who has made an impact — and had an impact made on them — by Nmecha at City. "[Vincent] Kompany roughs me up in training but he's really given me a lot of confidence because he's played against the best strikers in the world and he's telling me I can make it," said Nmecha, who revealed the City icon — now the Anderlecht coach — regards him as "a little brother".
At over six feet tall, Nmecha is only small to someone like Kompany, and with his imposing frame could probably bring lesser men than the ex-City captain to heel using nothing more than his brawn, but he also has a football brain that should prevent him being pigeon-holed as a 'target man.'
"Kompany has told me what he doesn't like playing against. If I hold it up against him I might lose the battle, so it's more about running in behind and using my pace," explained Nmecha. "I like going up against centre-halves, but I also like playing so I don't want to overdo it. I don't just want to be the big guy up front."
From wing to box
Being taken into the mind of the defender by Kompany will only serve to make Nmecha a more formidable goalgetter. He struck 28 times at U18, U19 and U21 level during the 2017/18 season — more than any other player in his age category in England. When he replaced his idol Sergio Aguero for the summer tour of the USA at the end of that campaign, he scored again in a 3-2 win over a Bayern side featuring Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, the sort of player Nmecha himself could have been.
"I started out wide," Nmecha explained, adding he has — like with so many of his experiences in the football world — learned from his time as a budding winger where one-on-one duels in pocket handkerchief-sized slices of the pitch are the norm. "I had to do a lot more dribbling out there, and that now serves me well in the penalty area."
England's loss, Germany's gain
While his younger brother Felix, who is also on City's books, chose to represent Germany, Lukas initially wore England's Three Lions.
His backheel finish took a side also featuring Chelsea's Mason Mount and Fulham's Ryan Sessegnon past the Czech Republic and into the U19 EURO final they would eventually win in 2017; a year later, he was part of the U21 squad that won a third successive Toulon tournament. But come the 2019 U21 EURO last summer — after three U21 outings for England — Nmecha was in a Germany shirt.
"I see Germany as my home. I lived in Hamburg until I was nine, and still have a strong connection to the city and the people. I spoke about it with my mum, who is from Mönchengladbach," he explained, adding a visit from Germany's U21 coach Stefan Kuntz to the Nmecha home in Manchester had played a major role.
"It was cool," said Nmecha. "My dad cooked for him and we watched the Champions League game between Manchester City and Schalke." By March 2019, Nmecha was making his U21 debut for Germany — ironically against England in Bournemouth — and went on to pick up a runners-up medal in the final tournament in Italy and San Marino.