Hugo Ekitike, Reims
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One to watch: Hugo Ekitike, Reims' prodigious young striker

Publish on 29/03/2022 at 21:11

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Hugo Ekitike has burst onto the scene with Stade de Reims this season, his nine Ligue 1 Uber Eats goals making him the highest-scoring teenager in any of Europe's five major leagues, but what else is there to know?

Reims fans could have been forgiven for wondering where their firepower was going to come from this term after 14-goal top scorer Boulaye Dia left in a big-money move for Villarreal.

 

But Ekitike has allayed those fears and then some, the youth academy graduate stepping up into the first team and plundering his first French top-flight goals - alongside two assists - at a rate of one every 105 minutes he has played.

 

Back story:

 

A hometown boy, Ekitike was born in Reims to parents of Cameroonian extraction in June 2002, when the club were yoyoing between the second and third tiers of French football, and he joined the club's fabled academy ranks the summer of his 11th birthday.

 

Ekitike raced through the age group teams at the Stade Auguste-Delaune and plundered five goals in 12 fourth-tier games for Reims' reserves at the age of 17. He then spent the second half of the following season on loan in Denmark with Vejle BK; another step up he took in his stride with three goals in 11 games playing against senior professionals for the first time.

 

He matured into a strapping 6'3" forward during this period - albeit one who is yet to fully fill out at 19 - and his promotion to Reims' first team was, in retrospect, only a matter of time.

 

 

Style of play:

 

Ekitike has the height to strike fear into many an opposition centre-back, but his build-up play also deserves recognition. Ekitike has the technique and ball control often associated with far smaller players - a result of his late growth-spurt perhaps - with only Kylian Mbappé and Wissam Ben Yedder outstripping him for goal-involvements per 90 minutes this season.

 

Current campaign:

 

With two substitute appearances under his belt, Ekitike was handed his first start against Montpellier Hérault SC in August and scored his first top-flight goal in an impressive 2-0 win at Stade Rennais FC less than a month later. He then bagged a brace in front of the Stade Auguste Delaune faithful when the Champagne club beat FC Nantes 3-1 two weeks later, something he described as "one of the greatest days of my life."

 

Now one of the first names on Oscar Garcia's teamsheet, Ekitike was called up to Sylvain Ripoll's France under-21 in November, although a hamstring injury means club and country are having to be patient for him to extend upon his promising start.

 

That didn't stop newly-wealthy Newcastle from attempting to swoop in the recent winter transfer window, but the player turned it down, with Reims president Jean-Pierre Caillot asserting that: "we share the feeling there's still a piece of history to write together."

 

Watch: Ekitike bags a brace as Reims beat Nantes



What they said:

 

"Hugo came back in pre-season and was the fourth striker on our list. But we saw in pre-season that he had a lot of the qualities required to become a top striker. Technically he's so good. He's fast. He has to develop a little bit more physically but he's a player who, for me, can play for a top club. We've improved him. He should keep improving."

 

- Coach Garcia waxing lyrical about his young star.

 

"My favourite player when I was younger was Kossi Agassa. He was impressive, he was the first player whose first name I remembered at the stadium! I always remember Jordy Siebatcheu's goal against PSG in 2015 and and his celebration with us youth players who were in the stands."

 

- Ekitike on being a Reims supporter before turning out for the rouges et blancs.

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