RB Leipzig star Christopher Nkunku earns first France call-up
Christopher Nkunku has been rewarded for his excellent performances with RB Leipzig this season by being handed a very first call-up to the France national squad.
Nkunku has been on Didier Deschamps' radar for some time, with the France coach explaining that he "could have been on the list" last November, when Les Bleus claimed FIFA World Cup qualifying wins over Kazakhstan and Finland. Instead, the 24-year-old will get an opportunity to make his senior international debut in upcoming friendlies against Côte d'Ivoire (March 25) and South Africa (March 29).
Nkunku has been on exceptional form in the Bundesliga this term, racking up 15 goals and nine assists for Die Roten Bullen. He was instrumental in the 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 11, scoring one goal and creating the other, while he has only failed to find the back of the net in two of nine league games since the turn of the year.
Watch: Nkunku under the tactical microscope
He hasn't fared badly in Europe, either; a hat-trick against Manchester City in Leipzig's UEFA Champions League opener, and four more strikes in group games against Club Brugge and boyhood club Paris Saint-Germain. He was also on target in the UEFA Europa League play-off tie against Real Sociedad, helping his side qualify for the last 16 of the competition (which they have already won on walkover, due to UEFA suspending Spartak Moscow).
"When it comes to goals and assists, he has excellent statistics," Deschamps said of Nkunku, shortly after announcing his 23-man list. "His positioning has changed a bit. He started as more of a wide player, but today he's much more central, acting as a striker or second striker for Leipzig. He has a lot more freedom and he's closer to the goal, which has made him much more decisive. So of course, we'll try to use him in a similar way."
Nkunku is one of five Bundesliga-based players in the latest France squad, along with Bayern Munich trio Lucas Hernandez, Benjamin Pavard and Kingsley Coman, and Bayer Leverkusen's Moussa Diaby. The reigning world champions will be defending their title at the World Cup in Qatar at the end of this year (November 21 to December 18).
France squad in full
Goalkeepers: Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Mike Maignan (AC Milan)
Defenders: Jonathan Clauss (Lens), Lucas Digne (Aston Villa), Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Theo Hernandez (AC Milan), Presnel Kimpembe (PSG), Jules Kounde (Sevilla), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), Raphael Varane (Manchester United)
Midfielders: Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille), N'Golo Kante (Chelsea), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurelien Tchouameni (Monaco)
Forwards: Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Moussa Diaby (Bayer Leverkusen), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Kylian Mbappe (PSG), Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig)
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