Stade Rennais may be underdogs when they come up against champions Paris Saint-Germain next Sunday, but in Jérémy Doku, les Rouge et Noir have a player capable of giving Neymar Jr. and Co. a run for their money.
Doku has hit the ground running - or should that be flying past his marker? - since swapping Anderlecht for Rennes at the start of the season, and had helped his side to five wins in their previous six outings before last Sunday's 1-0 loss to Girondins de Bordeaux.
Already a full Belgium international at the tender age of 18, Doku is sure to give Layvin Kurzawa, Abdou Diallo and friends a few sleepless nights between now and Sunday. Ligue1.com takes a closer look at one of the league's most exciting talents...
Born in Antwerp to Ghanaian parents in May 2002, Doku was on much of world football's radar almost since the start. A member of record Belgian champions Anderlecht's youth academy since the age of 10, Liverpool tried to open talks with the young winger when he was 15, but he took then-Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku's advice and stayed at the club which ultimately gave both their senior debuts.
Doku was just 16 years, six months and one day old when he was given his first-team bow in a Jupiler Pro League game against Sint-Truiden in November 2018, and he scored his first goal for Anderlecht against Oostende after breaking into the side on a full-time basis a year later.
Eligible to represent Ghana at international level by virtue of his parentage, Doku has turned out for the Belgium under-21s since he was 17; and after a run of two goals and four assists in just seven games for Anderlecht at the start of the current campaign, Rennes had seen enough to make him theirs for a record fee which surpassed what they paid Atlético Paranaense for Brazilian striker Lucas in 2000.
Style of play:
Powerfully built but with a low centre of gravity at 1.71 metres tall, Doku has the kind of incredibly quick feet and dribbling skills that can't be taught. He may have heeded Lukaku's advice earlier in his career, but it is another Belgian great - former LOSC man Eden Hazard - whom Doku most aspires to play like, and the similarities are obvious.
Two goals and three assists in 34 matches France are the story of a player who could perhaps still add some end product to his game, but his two goals and as many assists in six senior international outings with Belgium - for whom Lukaku and Hazard are now teammates - since making his full debut at the start of the campaign, augurs well.
Doku was still part of Vincent Kompany's Anderlecht when the 2020/21 season got underway, with the les Mauves et Blancs undefeated in his seven outings before he swapped Brussels for Brittany.
The first choice on the right flank vacated by the Leeds-bound Raphinha since his arrival, Doku has adjusted seamlessly to Bruno Génésio's vision, the coach having replaced Julien Stéphan in March. Rennes were down to 10 men after just 10 minutes against Bordeaux last Sunday; Doku duly won a game-high 12 one-on-ones and hit the post.
Watch: Highlights of Rennes' 1-0 loss to Bordeaux
What they said:
"Whenever I watched football on TV, I really liked watching him and it'll be special to rub shoulders with him for the Red Devils. I'm going to pay close attention to him in training, to see how he plays, how he does things."
- Doku before making his Belgium debut alongside childhood hero Hazard.
"I think he has a great future. He has crazy quality in one-on-ones, and is an explosive dribbler. When he was younger he maybe lacked a bit of cardio and finishing, but he's erased that since the start of the season. He can be one of the best 20 players in the world one day."
- An impressed Samir Nasri, who was briefly Doku's teammate at Anderlecht.