VfL Wolfsburg newboy Paul-Georges Ntep has arrived in the Bundesliga having taken the long road from Cameroon via Burgundy and Brittany.
bundesliga.com charts the steps in his career that have led the exciting France international forward to Germany.
Born in the Cameroonian city of Douala, also the birthplace of Samuel Eto'o, Ntep moved to France aged eight to live with an aunt in the southern suburbs of Paris. He eventually joined CS Bretigny Foot, the club where Patrice Evra and Jimmy Briand, formerly of Hannover 96, also caught the eye early in their careers.
Ntep's fledgling talents encouraged his club's coaches to suggest he try to take a step up the footballing ladder. LOSC Lille, AS Saint-Etienne, FC Nantes, ES Troyes AC, Toulouse FC and AJ Auxerre took a close look at Ntep, and all declined. It was only after a second trial with Auxerre in 2009 he was finally offered a contract. His performances at the Burgundy club eventually earned him a move to Stade Rennais FC in January 2014.
Ntep fades, Dembele steps up
If Borussia Dortmund fans are enjoying the talents of Ousmane Dembele, they can thank the misfortune of Ntep in part. Rennes' 2015/16 season looked to be seriously undermined when Ntep's campaign and his UEFA EURO 2016 hopes were ended by a shin injury in February. Instead, Dembele stepped out of the shadows, catapulting himself from promising youngster to bona fide star.
Goal threat or goal-maker?
Ntep can be both, but the pacy attacker has no doubt about where he performs best. "I prefer the left side. It gives me more solutions. I can cut inside onto my right foot or cross with my left," he said when he first arrived at Rennes where he developed into a more complete player. "Personally, I have never defined myself as a goalscorer," said Ntep, who scored 18 goals and provided 15 assists in 74 Ligue 1 appearances for Rennes. "I like to take people on and serve my team-mates. They know they have to get on the end of it when I have the ball on the flank. They do that very well. Defensively, I make efforts I didn't before. I enjoy defending as much as attacking."
Ntep's early difficulties in breaking into the professional world were reportedly down to questions over his temperament rather than his ability. From his controversial goal against Stade de Reims, when he rounded the goalkeeper, stopped the ball on the goalline and got down on his knees to head home in his first season at Rennes, to getting himself sent off following an altercation barely a minute after coming off the bench against Marseille the following season, Ntep can be a fiery character.
But he is also not scared of turning a critical gaze on his own performances. "No, not at all, never," he replied with brutal honesty when asked whether he felt he was up to the standard of Ligue 1 at the start of his Rennes career. "Of all the matches I've played, I've never been up to it."