Randal Kolo Muani: the Bundesliga assist king leading Eintracht Frankfurt to UEFA Champions League knockouts
There must be something in the water of the Parisian town of Bondy – childhood home to Kylian Mbappe and the birthplace just 15 days earlier of French football’s latest attacking sensation, Randal Kolo Muani. The man leading the Bundesliga assist chart and who just fired Eintracht Frankfurt to the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League for the first time ever.
The 23-year-old only joined Eintracht in the summer from Nantes, but his impact has been immediate and taken the UEFA Europa League holders to another level.
He announced his arrival in the Bundesliga as a half-time substitute in the season’s opening fixture against Bayern Munich. A result to forget for Frankfurt as they shipped six at home, but Kolo Muani’s consolation goal had viewers sit up and take notice.
He was a livewire throughout his first 45 minutes and had no fear in pressing and harrying Manuel Neuer, dispossessing the Bayern goalkeeper to coolly slot into an empty net.
However, between that goal in early August and his strike in Lisbon on 1 November, it wasn’t really Kolo Muani’s scoring exploits that caught the eye. Instead, the striker has emerged as a surprise contender for Thomas Müller’s crown as Bundesliga assist king.
Watch: All of Kolo Muani’s Bundesliga goals and assists in the first 12 matchdays
The France international – rewarded for his early-season form with his first two senior caps in September – leads the German top flight for provisions with seven from just 11 appearances. That includes one in three of his last four outings as the Eagles have soared up to fifth in the table. It puts him two clear of the rest of the league for assists and among an elite group of people to have set up so many goals at this stage of a Bundesliga season, like Müller and Kevin de Bruyne.
“It gives me great joy when I can play in my teammates and they score,” Kolo Muani recently told Sport1. But, as a centre-forward, is that really what he’s all about?
“No, not really,” he said laughing in response. “Of course, I prefer to score. It’s more fun for me scoring goals than setting them up. But obviously I’ll lay it off when someone is better placed in a situation.”
Well, the fun and joy was clear to see on the striker’s face as he celebrated what turned out to be the winner in Lisbon on Champions League Matchday 6. A come-from-behind victory that summed up the tight Group D, where all four teams were poised to progress at some stage that Tuesday night.
It was obviously a huge moment for Kolo Muani personally and almost a response to comments made the previous weekend by his coach, given the striker had scored only twice in the league since that debut goal.
“You can see from his goalscoring chances where the room for improvement lies,” Oliver Glasner said following the tight 2-1 loss at home to Borussia Dortmund. “He gets himself into great positions with his close control in tight areas, but then shoots hard with power, instead of perhaps slotting it calmly into the corner with the side of his foot. That’s very much on the agenda here and we’re working on it.”
By no means a criticism of a still young forward, but his powerful shot past the Sporting goalkeeper from a tight angle, after outmuscling his marker to spin in the box, was the perfect reply.
A goal that followed Daichi Kamada’s earlier equaliser from the penalty spot, after the duo had earned Die Adler their first-ever Champions League home win the previous week against Marseille. A couple of goalscorers who – combined – cost Eintracht less than €2 million to buy, but have already earned the club so much.
They are representative of the amazing work that has gone on in Frankfurt in recent years. Speaking after the match in Lisbon, club CEO Axel Hellmann told reporters that, during the closing minutes of the game, his mind went back six years to the second leg of their relegation play-off tie with Nuremberg: “I saw Seferovic again and how he turned the ball in.”
Had Haris Seferovic not scored that day in May 2016, Eintracht would’ve been relegated on away goals. But since then, they have won the DFB Cup, reached the Europa League semi-finals, won the Europa League, qualified for the Champions League for the first time and now become the first Bundesliga debutants in the Champions League since VfB Stuttgart in 2003/04 to reach the knockout stage.
Watch: The Seferovic goal that sparked Frankfurt’s resurgence
Long before Kolo Muani stepped foot in Deutsche Bank Park on a free transfer, the Eagles had been doing tremendous business.
Ante Rebic, Sebastien Haller, Luka Jovic, Andre Silva, Filip Kostic (all sold for big profits), Kamada, Kevin Trapp, Sebastian Rode, Evan Ndicka, Tuta, Rafael Borre, Jesper Lindstrom and even World Cup winner Mario Götze – all key to the success over the last year and either signed on loan, on a free or for nominal amounts in today’s market, with nothing close to €10 million.
Kolo Muani (10) is currently second only to Jamal Musiala (11) in the Bundesliga for combined goals and assists in 2022/23. Midfielder Kamada has netted 12 times from 20 games across competitions. Götze leads the team for chances created in the league (16) and distance covered (128.3 km). Captain Rode was described in Lisbon as the “motor who woke the team up” after his half-time introduction.
Watch: Kolo Muani and Kamada – Frankfurt’s deadly duo
As you’d almost expect when your centre-forward is your leading provider, it’s the team that’s the star. A team that continues to make history with how it upsets the odds. Götze is no stranger to the knockout stages or big games, but even he is impressed by what he’s witnessed at his new club.
“When you see where we started and how we’ve progressed, it just feels good,” said German football’s one-time golden boy, echoing the sentiments of everyone at Germany’s golden club right now.
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