After saving Mainz from the drop last season, Ridle Baku is primed to make another telling contribution in 2018/19. bundesliga.com profiles the young relegation saviour, who was knocking about in the reserves little over three months ago...
Position: Central midfielder
Baku was about to make his 27th appearance for the Mainz reserves when he was pulled from the team bus at the 11th hour to plug a gap in the senior side for the visit of RB Leipzig on 29 April 2018. It proved an inspired decision. Baku went on to cover more ground than any of his teammates (seven miles) and completed a team-high 21 passes, before capping off a dream Bundesliga debut by firing in Mainz's third goal. The diminutive 5'9" midfielder added to his tally against Borussia Dortmund the following week, securing the win that secured the 05ers' top-flight status for another campaign.
Plays a bit like: Naby Keita
Naby Keita has moved on, but Baku will carry the flag for the leggy box-to-box midfielders in his first full Bundesliga campaign. Fittingly, the Mainz talent went head-to-head with his one-time opposite number on his top-flight debut, and won. Aside from scoring, Baku clocked 86 runs – 30 more than Keita - and 34 sprints. Leipzig's former engine, meanwhile, endured a miserable day at the office, receiving his marching orders for a second-bookable offence in added time.
Did you know?
Baku was christened Bote Nzuzi, but is known by his nickname 'Ridle', a misspelled tribute from his father to former Dortmund forward Karl-Heinz Riedle. Although he is of Congolese origin, the Mainz native, who signed a two-year contract extension through to 2022 in summer 2018, has already represented Germany at U18 and U19 level.
Watch: Highlights as Ridle Baku stuns Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park
What they're saying
"I found out at a motorway service station that I should get off the bus. It took me 45 minutes to work out where I was, but in the end I got there and the fans were happy, my teammates were happy, I was happy. My debut could not have gone any better." - Baku
"The way Ridle lives for Mainz, they way he got stuck in on his debut, the heart and soul he puts into it - it's just outstanding." - Sandro Schwarz (Mainz head coach)
Ridle Baku impressed everyone towards the end of the season and showed what great steps he's made in his development in recent years." - Rouven Schröder (Mainz sporting director)