One to watch: Karl Toko Ekambi

One to watch: Karl Toko Ekambi

Publish on at - S. WILLIS


Karl Toko Ekambi hit the ground running with a goal on debut in OL's 3-0 win over Toulouse in Round 21, picking up where he left off with Angers in 2018. The Cameroon striker looks set for a big second half of the season…

Toko Ekambi is no stranger to fans of French football. The 27-year-old striker wowed in final season with Angers SCO, racking up 17 goals in 37 appearances to earn a move to La Liga stalwarts Villarreal for a reported €20m.

Lured back to Ligue 1 Conforama on a season-long loan (with option to buy) by an Olympique Lyonnais looking to fill the attacking breach left by season-ending ACL injuries to star attackers Memphis Depay and Jeff Reine-Adélaïde, Toko Ekambi got right down to business in the clash with Toulouse in Round 22.

Subbed on early (25') to replace the injured Martin Terrier, Toko Ekambi looked as sharp as ever as he latched onto Thiago Mendes' assist and lashed a low shot in off the far post.

Coach Rudi Garcia was doubtless pleased as punch that his new signing had slotted right in, helping the team stretch their winning run to six matches in all competitions just as a crunch Ligue 1 Conforama clash away to Paris Saint-Germain and a UEFA Champions League last-16 clash at home to Juventus start to loom large in February.

But who is the man behind the hype? Read on…

Back story:

Born to Cameroonian parents in Parisian in 1992, Karl Toko Ekambi came up through the youth ranks at Paris FC before a serious injury led to a two-year hiatus. However, the call of the round ball persisted and Toko Ekambi returned to action, signing a professional contract with Paris FC and starring for the then-National (D3) side.

Toko-Ekambi Sochaux

A move to Domino's Ligue 2 with FC Sochaux-Montbéliard followed in season 2014-15 and his capacity to play anywhere across the attacking line saw him rack up the game time - and the goals (14) - as well as a call-up to the Cameroon national team, with whom he won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2017.

Toko-Ekambi, Coman

This form naturally attracted the eyes of plenty of Ligue 1 Conforama sides, but he stayed with Sochaux for one more season - scoring 11 times (one third of the struggling club's goals that season) - before making the move up to the big time with Angers SCO in 2017-16.

The next two seasons saw him make his name with a string of powerful performances and spectacular goals, form that saw him win the Prix Marc-Vivien Foé - the award for the best player of African origins playing in France - and secure a €20m move to Spain's Villarreal despite the strong interest of one Rudi Garcia, the coach of Olympique de Marseille at the time.

Verratti, Aurier, Toko-Ekambi Angers SCO

He quickly worked his way into the starting line-up with the Spanish side, scoring 18 goals in 37 appearances in all competitions in his first season.

Style of play: 

At 1.85m, Toko Ekambi is a powerful presence on the pitch but he is nonetheless known more for his pace and sharp skills than for his power or aerial prowess. Able to play as a central striker or down either flank (preferably the left), he uses his pace to hit on the counter or to cut inside, bringing his close control and dribbling skills to bear to carve out shooting positions.

Although he likes to take on his man, he is not scared of shooting from distance and has a wide range of shooting techniques that have seen him score many goals from outside the area.

Current campaign:

Toko Ekambi scored six goals for Villarreal in the first half of the season, and although he has only made the one appearance in Ligue 1 Conforama so far, all the signs are positive for Toko Ekambi to have a strong second half of the season. He showed against Toulouse that he is still comfortable on the flank, so can fit into a 4-3-3 formation.

But, as Angers boss Stéphane Moulin realised when he moved Toko Ekambi from wide on the left to a central striking role in his second season at Angers, he is a deadly central striker who could also thrive alongside Moussa Dembélé in a 4-4-2.

What you didn't know:

On 5 December 2018, he scored a quadruple in the Copa del Rey round of 16 clash with Almeria, becoming the first Villarreal player to achieve the feat since the beginning of the professional era in Spain (1934).

Best goal:

Toko Ekambi's maiden strike for Angers after signing from Sochaux was portentous to say the least. Coming in just his fourth appearance for Stéphane Moulin's side, it combined pace, confidence, composure, a deft touch and, importantly, his cannon of a right boot. That said, his dazzling solo effort in Angers the next season wasn't bad either!

What he said:

"When you arrive in a new team, you dream of scoring on debut. Especially when you are a striker, you dream of scoring that first goal and it happened today. I'm very happy with it. I want to give my all for the supporters and this club. That's what I'm going to do. It's very easy to fit in here, everyone put me at ease. I can't wait to go on and have a great end to the season."

- After scoring OL's third on debut against Toulouse FC in Round 21

"The club and I agree that my best position is playing through the middle. I like to score goals, I like to attack and I like to provoke - I'm an attacking player. So if I spend 70 per cent of my time defending, then I'm going to be less clear-headed and less effective for the other 30 per cent of the time."

- On where he feels he is the most effective

What they said:

"We are very happy to welcome Karl. He joins us in the form of a loan with a purchase option that is not compulsory. If it goes well, he would join for four and a half years. The idea was always that he is a great fit for this squad. That was priority number one. He is the 11th Cameroonian in our history, and the eighth since my arrival. We have strong ties with this country. He received the Marc Vivien-Foé Prize in 2018, an award named after a player who impressed us a lot here."

- OL president Jean-Michel Aulas on bringing Toko-Ekambi to the club

“After the injuries to Memphis [Depay] and Jeff [Reine-Adélaïde], we began to discuss solutions for the second half of the season, even though Martin [Terrier], Bertrand [Traoré], Maxwell [Cornet] and now Rayan [Cherki] are enabling us to have more hope. But when Rudi arrived, he put the team in a 4-4-2 shape with Moussa and Memphis up top, and it worked well. Even though in recent matches, we have played in a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1, the team really performed well. Toko will allow us to continue to play in this way if the manager decides that’s what he wants to do. This player is capable of playing centrally, alone, or alongside Moussa. But what is most important, when we look to sign a player, is his desire. And what really touched us was that he showed a strong desire to come to play for us.”

- OL sporting director Juninho on why the club chose Toko-Ekambi

>> PLAYER PROFILE: Karl Toko Ekambi

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