Paris Saint-Germain-owned striker Arnaud Kalimuendo has fired RC Lens to the brink of Europe next season with his 12 goals in Ligue 1 Uber Eats, but what else is there to know?
Kalimuendo is in his second season on loan with Lens, his first returning seven goals in 28 games, 13 of them starts. He has upped his attacking output with les Sang et Or this term, and if he can fire them past AS Monaco this Saturday, European football could be theirs.
Whether Kalimuendo is around to witness that remains to be seen - Mauricio Pochettino was known to have wanted the young forward to be a squad option at the Parc des Princes at the start of this season - but French football has an exciting young prospect regardless of his jersey colour next term.
Born in the western Parisian suburb of Suresnes in January 2002, Kalimuendo joined PSG's academy at the age of 11, where he shared an age group with fellow promising talents Tanguy Nianzou, Timothée Pembélé, Adil Aouchiche and Kays Ruiz-Atil among others.
He stood out despite that esteemed company - Nianzou and Ruiz-Atil have since been on the books at Bayern Munich and Barcelona respectively - and after nine goals in 10 UEFA Youth League games under Thiago Motta at under-19 level, he was promoted to first-team training in 2020.
With the likes of Kylian Mbappé and Neymar Jr. blocking his path to regular minutes at the Parc des Princes, Kalimuendo left on loan for Lens at the start of last season. Eight goals and six assists in all competitions later and club and player were delighted to come to the same arrangement for the 2021/22 campaign.
Style of play:
Kalimuendo has that rare skill of being able to make and take chances with equal aplomb. He looks like the quintessential penalty-box predator when he is close to the opposition goal, taking a single touch before unleashing a shot early - on either foot - to beat the goalkeeper; but he often drops deeper to take part in the build-up play, where his confidence in possession is also a joy to behold.
Kalimuendo actually began the campaign with PSG, and came off the bench for the capital club's 4-2 wins over RC Strasbourg Alsace and Stade Brestois 29 last August before returning to the Stade Bollaert-Delelis for the remainder of the season.
Goals against Olympique Lyonnais, OGC Nice and then-champions LOSC have since been plundered, and when he scored his 12 of the season against ESTAC Troyes in Round 37, Kalimuendo became the first Lens player to reach that number of goals in a top-flight campaign since Pascal Françoise back in 1977.
Watch: Kalimuendo bagged a brace as Lens beat Nice in Round 31
What they said:
"I never had any doubts, because I have a lot of ambition and I want to finish very well here. I want to leave a good mark and Europe would be a good thing. There's still Monaco, a very big team, and we'll have to do the job at home but I think the fans will be there and will push us. It's amazing to have them behind us! When we see them arriving on the way to the match, we feel that they're behind us. It gives us extra strength and we're very happy to have supporters like that because it boosts us enormously."
- Kalimuendo - who has no option to buy in his loan deal - on his season goals
"Arnaud Kalimuendo has now played 30 more games. This allows him to develop in every aspect. The Kali in a year or five years will be another player. Every minute, every goal scored or not scored brings him things. He's progressed well during these two seasons in Lens."
- Lens coach Franck Haise on what has been a fruitful loan period for all involved.